NCCC Alumni Success in STEM

NCCC Alumni Success in STEM

Science | Technology | Engineering | Math

Earning a degree in STEM develops the essential skills for building the next generation of critical thinkers, problem solvers, and innovators. With the growing job market and opportunities to earn higher salaries all across Western New York, our STEM graduates are making a difference! They are currently developing new medicines, computer applications, alternative energy sources, and more! Follow a few of our NCCC STEM Alumni to see what they have accomplished after earning their degree.

Michael Gazzo photo

Michael Gazzo ’13

Major: Engineering Studies
Profession: Mechanical Design Engineer, Moog Inc.

Why did you decide to attend NCCC?

"I had been working as an Electrical Technician in the automotive industry when I decided that I wanted to go back to school as a non-traditional student for engineering. I had heard so many positive things about NCCC and their STEM program, especially their math courses which I personally struggled with. After attending NCCC’s Open House, I knew that I needed to enroll at the College in order to achieve success and I’m so happy that I did."

What interested you in pursuing a degree and career in STEM?

"I wanted to be able to understand how things work on a fundamental level. We don’t realize how much thought and development go into these products that we use in our everyday life. As things continue to grow and change around us, I want to be able to comprehend how we got here and why things have changed the way they did."

In laymen’s terms, explain your current position at Moog?

"I am currently a Mechanical Design Engineer in Moog’s Aircraft Group. It is my job to put together and test different circuitry designs for airplanes. After they’re designed, I have to determine how to make them. I pick out different components, put them on circuit cards, and see how they react to different environments. For example, this may include dangerous weather, pressure changes, extreme vibrations, or anything that a plane may go through in a "worst-case scenario". All of these physical parts react differently, so my role is to figure out how we can have all of these components together safely."

How did NCCC help you achieve your goals?

"If I had started at a larger 4-year institution, I don’t think I would have achieved the success I have today. I always viewed working at Moog as the pinnacle of one’s career and my long-term objective. I can’t stress enough how much NCCC prepared me to reach my goals and how much the faculty supported me throughout the entire program. After graduating from NCCC, I felt confident that I could continue on and accomplish anything that I set my mind to.

Jeff Carpenter photo

Jeff Carpenter ’00

Major: LA&S: Mathematics and Science
Profession: Senior Project Engineer,
FabriTec Structures, LLC

Pictured: Jeff inside one of the large beams in the shell of the new LA Rams Stadium

Why did you decide to attend NCCC?

"Ever since I was little, I knew that I wanted to be able to build and create. NCCC was in a great location and an affordable price. During high school, NCCC worked closely with my Guidance Counselor to educate me on their Dual Admission Program. This meant that I could attend NCCC for two-years, earn my Associates Degree, and then transfer to a four-year university with all of my credit hours. This program was the perfect opportunity for me because I could receive the same education, but at a lower cost."

In laymen’s terms, explain your current position at FabriTec?

"After graduating from the University at Buffalo, I began working at Birdair Inc. as a Project Engineer and gradually advanced to their Director of Engineering. While I was there, I worked on projects such as the Atlanta Falcons Football Stadium and World Cup Soccer Stadiums in South Africa.

In 2017, I began working at FabriTec Structures as a Senior Project Engineer. It is my job to manage the technical aspects of projects. For example, I work with the subcontractors and fabricators on our projects and then relay those details back to our clients, architects, and engineers. I help to ensure that these structures can actually go together and be built. We are currently in the process of building the new LA Rams Football Stadium. We also work on different structures in airports, parks, zoos, etc. It is such an exciting feeling when I see these structures on TV or in-person to know that I helped create that."

Why do you continue to stay involved with NCCC after graduating?

"During my time at NCCC, my professors, in particular Jerry Truesdell, truly went above and beyond for us. He wanted to see us become successful and offered students additional study sessions after class that we could take advantage of. Now, I come back to NCCC to speak with current students about the importance of receiving an education. All of their classes, even their general education, offers them the opportunity to learn transferable skills which they will use in their future careers. NCCC allows them to learn and grow in a positive environment so when students do graduate, they’re prepared."

Mike Balent photo

Mike Balent ’00

Major: LA&S: Mathematics and Science
Profession: Manufacturing Engineer, SpaceX

Why did you decide to attend NCCC?

"While I was in high school, I didn’t take my education seriously. Every four-year college I applied to, I was rejected from. My sister was attending NCCC at the time taking four classes per semester and she recommended that I try to do the same. I’m so thankful that I listened to my sister and attended NCCC! I spent my first year working with the professors to become a better student and earned straight A’s. NCCC taught me a different way to apply myself inside and out of the classroom."

Tell me about your path after graduating from NCCC?

"During my second year at NCCC, I was afforded the opportunity to take classes at both NCCC and UB. After graduating with my Associates Degree, I transferred on to Cornell University to continue my education in engineering. However, because their Mechanical Engineering Program is in such high demand, I was originally placed in their Civil Engineering Program instead. I knew that this wasn’t the right program for me and again began to struggle in my classes. Thanks to the support that I received during my time at NCCC, I knew that my best path to success would be to speak with my advisor. He helped me get into the proper mechanical engineering courses even before I was accepted into the program. Out of all of the colleges that I have attended, NCCC is still my favorite and has been the most beneficial to me."

In laymen’s terms, explain to me your current position at SpaceX?

"Before I started working at SpaceX, I was an Engineer at DuPont. While I was there, I received a phone call from a friend from college. He told me that he was working at SpaceX with the man who invented PayPal – Elon Musk. My friend kept telling me that I needed to come work for the company, but at the time I wasn’t interested. One night while I was home watching the news, a story came on about Elon Musk and his company SpaceX. They explained that SpaceX was going to become an aerospace manufacturer and space transport service company. After watching the story and learning more about what Elon was trying to accomplish, I knew that I could contribute to his team.

After a little over a year of applying and interviewing with SpaceX, I was hired! I am now currently a Manufacturing Engineer. Recently I was in charge of manufacturing the body of the reusable Falcon 9 rocket. This is the world’s first re-flight of an orbital class rocket. What that means, is while most rockets are designed to burn up on reentry, Falcon 9 can not only withstand reentry, but can also successfully land back on Earth and re-fly again. When I look back on my education and how I started versus where I am today, I can’t stress enough how important attending NCCC was for me. Your career and your life can take you in directions that you never imagined possible. My degree from NCCC is what helped me prepare for any opportunity."