When applying to colleges, Samantha Hepp found that one of the first listed majors in a drop-down menu was aerospace engineering. She didn’t need to scroll any further. That area of study aligned with her fascination with space exploration and blended well with her desire to apply her love of math in real-world settings.
“I was—and still am—interested in connecting my strengths and passions with the world around me,” Hepp said.
As a student at Case Western Reserve University, though, Hepp realized her passion for learning how different mechanisms and mechanical systems work was better suited for mechanical engineering. Ultimately, she opted to pursue Case School of Engineering’s integrated BS/MS program where she focuses her studies in mechanical engineering.
Now, she’s connecting her studies to her research thesis on semi-active suspension control systems and with her role as captain of the CWRU Motorsports BAJA SAE team, a student-led team that designs, builds and competes off-road vehicles against more than 90 collegiate teams nationwide.
Answers have been lightly edited for clarity and length.
1. What led you to join the BAJA SAE team?
I originally joined the team because it seemed like a great opportunity to learn more about
engineering. I ended up getting so involved because I felt really welcomed by the team
and excited to keep attending meetings and learning more. Baja very quickly became a
second home for me, and I’ll always be grateful for that.
2. What do you enjoy most about being a member of the BAJA SAE team?
Being a part of the team gives me an opportunity to do something I’m really passionate about, with some of my best friends. This combination of teamwork and drive is something that is really special to be a part of.
3. What challenges have you experienced as a member of the team?
It took me a while to find my voice on the team and what my style of communication is. We all experience the challenge of learning to balance one another’s ideas, and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to grow and learn how to communicate more effectively on the team.
4. What are you looking forward to as team captain? What do you hope to accomplish?
I’m hoping this year the team continues the success that we’ve seen recently, but I’m also really looking forward to seeing the innovative ideas the team will come up with. I learn something from this team every time I work with them, which is something I hope is true for everyone all year.
5. Why did you choose to study at CWRU? What do you hope to do after you graduate?
I chose [Case Western Reserve University] because I felt like the research and innovation done here was very inspiring. I heard Dustin Tyler—a professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering—speak about his work on prosthetics during my senior year of high school. His work, along with others, showed me that [CWRU] was a place where people care about pushing the boundaries of what’s been done to make the world a better place for everyone in it.
After graduation, I’m hoping to go straight into working in industry. I’m looking into automotive and aerospace opportunities right now, and I plan to go into whichever industry position I feel like I’ll have the greatest opportunity to learn, grow and innovate.