Michael Sobczak, a first-year student studying robotics and mechatronics engineering technology in Purdue Polytechnic’s School of Engineering Technology, said that two Project Lead The Way (PLTW) teachers in high school helped develop his passion for robotics, electronics, and the hardware and software used in these fields of study.
We asked Sobczak about the role PLTW played in discovering and developing his interests.
Question: Why did you choose robotics and mechatronics engineering technology at Purdue Polytechnic as your majors?
Sobczak: I chose mechatronics at first because it’s a mix of mechanical, electrical, and computer systems, which is everything I had been interested in my entire life. During my senior year of high school, I discovered the robotics club, and I quickly changed my major. With my PLTW credits, my academic advisor helped me realize it was possible to take 15 credit hours every semester and study both mechatronics and robotics while still graduating in four years. I was very happy about that.
I chose Purdue Polytechnic because many of my high school teachers had been in Purdue Polytechnic’s Technology Leadership & Innovation programs. They told me about how students like that the Polytechnic is very hands-on. In high school, I was working to build robots every day to compete in tournaments. Hands-on work is wonderful, and I love working in and leading teams. The Polytechnic has everything I could ask for.
Question: How did PLTW courses in high school help prepare you for college? Do you have a favorite memory to share about a PLTW class, teacher, or project?
Sobczak: I took six PLTW classes. I started with Intro to Engineering Design, which introduced me to Autodesk Inventor, which I still use today. It was super fun. Principles of Engineering had a lot of hands-on projects to open my mind, help me think outside the box, and work with a group. Civil Engineering and Architecture was phenomenal! My teacher for that class was James Kirk, one of my favorite teachers. He was a huge inspiration to me. I learned Autodesk Revit in that class, getting experience designing houses, which was really fun. Digital Electronics was the most beneficial class I took.
Engineering Design and Development was my favorite class, and it had capstone projects for high school students. In that class, you’re brainstorming ideas, finding out how to do things, prototyping, and you’re even failing and succeeding — and my teacher for that course, John Kappes, said, “This is what engineering is.” He helped me succeed and was also a huge inspiration in my life.
Question: You earned college credits in high school. What advantage has that given you?
Sobczak: I came in to Purdue with 35 credits, and my PLTW course credits meant I didn’t have to take several courses here. It’s what helped make room in my plan of study to do a double-major in mechatronics and robotics in the same amount of time usually needed for a single major.
Question: Do you plan to go on an internship?
Sobczak: I’m hoping to find an internship which gives me a lot of hands-on experience. I think the experience will help me mature both as a person and in my major.
Question: When you have free time from studying, do you participate in any student organizations?
Sobczak: I’m part of Boiler Robotics. It’s full of extremely intelligent students coming together from multiple majors. We are doing a full rebuild of our bot, laughing and becoming friends while following our passions. I’m very excited about competing in a tournament.
Question: What are some favorite things about your major or courses?
Sobczak: My favorite class so far has been in the automated manufacturing lab in Knoy 258, with Prof. Brad Harriger and Prof. Brandon Stevens. I didn’t know about CAD software other than Autocad Inventor, but I learned SolidWorks. It was great to get a new perspective. My favorite project has been to make a game with buttons, sensors, and lights. Our team had a lot of ideas and had a great time, even as we worked through a lot of problems. I stayed up until 3 a.m. working on an extra-credit video about the project. It was embarrassing and funny, but it made the class laugh, and it was totally worth it. We got an A on the project, and we developed good friendships.
Question: What would you tell a high school student who is thinking about choosing one of Purdue Polytechnic’s majors?
The Polytechnic experience is underrated, and it’s one of a kind. I chose this as my passion. Classes are challenging but you can still have a good time. You feel so intrigued by the classes, professors, advisors, and other students. People in Purdue Polytechnic work on projects together, and through that we develop relationships which go beyond our classwork. We’re hoping to do more projects together and maybe even look for jobs together in the future.