Cameron Brown: Transfer Spotlight
Cameron Brown, transfer class of 2024, is an aerospace engineering major who is not only active in the Goodnight scholars program, but is also heavily involved in many extracurriculars on campus. Read more to learn about these extracurriculars and his interests.
Hi! My name is Cameron Brown. I am an aerospace engineering major part of the transfer class of 2024. My hobbies include rocketry, reading, and (occasionally) playing disc golf. Some fun facts about me: I love heavy metal and hardcore punk rock, I built my own rocket this past summer, and I have a miniature dachshund named Lana. Outside of class, I am heavily involved in NC State’s High-Powered Rocketry Club (HPRC) and currently serve as a STEM Coach within the Goodnight Scholars Program. In the recent past, I also served as a trip leader for Fostering STEM Futures, a service-based trip held over fall break, and was a retreat leader for our new transfer students’ within the program.
Why did you choose your major?
All my life, nothing has captivated me more than flight. As a child, my family visited multiple airshows where I was inspired by the wonderful elegance and agility of all sorts of aerobatic aircraft. I frequently spent my free time reading about the Wright brothers or learning about the various phenomena of flight. One week when I was in fourth grade, my interest in spaceflight blossomed. A STEM outreach program, then known as Starbase, came to my elementary school where they taught us about space, rockets, and STEM for the entire week. At the end of that week, we went out to the field to launch some of our own Estes rockets that we had been working on. The moment my rocket left the launchpad I knew what I wanted to do. Somehow, I was going to turn myself into a rocket scientist. There was just one problem. For years, I struggled with STEM. By the time I was in high school, I absolutely abhorred mathematics. I felt that I would never be fluent enough in math to do what I actually wanted to do in life. Though I worked hard to improve my math skills, I decided that I would just take the minimum amount of math classes I needed to graduate before following in the footsteps of my older brother to become a history teacher. During my freshman year of college, however, I found myself very unhappy. While taking my core classes (chemistry, precalculus, and the like), I was enjoying my STEM courses far more than any of the others. I never talked about history the way I talked about science, for instance. Deep down, I knew I still had a passion for STEM. My childhood dream of becoming a rocket scientist began to penetrate my every thought as I watched precious time pass by. Lots of late nights full of critical reflections with myself made me realize that it was entirely foolish for me to not attempt to chase my dream. By the start of my second semester in my freshman year of college, I finally decided to scrap all my college plans and switched my intended major to aerospace engineering. A bold move to say the least, but it is without a doubt the best decision I have ever made.
What is your favorite part about the Goodnight Scholars program?
Though it is a bit of a broad and clichéd answer, the sense of community is undoubtedly the best part of the Goodnight Scholars program. During my first semester at NC State, I was not particularly active in the program. A combination of transfer shock, imposter syndrome, and pre-existing anxiety and depression held me firmly in some of the darkest places I have ever been. It was not until I attended NC Mountains to Coast during the following spring break that I truly felt a sense of belonging within the program. As my fellow scholars and best friend / pro-staff member, Sierra Smith, grew closer through service and reflection throughout the trip, I realized that these are not only just ridiculously smart STEM students, but absolutely wonderful human beings. I had never felt so embraced, so loved, or so warm and happy before attending this trip. The kindness, openness, and friendliness of my fellow scholars nearly moved me to tears. Today, I am continuously grateful to have the privilege of knowing these people. I would do anything for them and am sure they would do likewise for me. I also love that the Goodnight Scholars program places a lot of value on STEM outreach through Mountains to Coast, STEM Coaches, etc. It took a group of people much like us coming to my school when I was a child to inspire me to become a rocket scientist. I am thrilled to have the chance to provide that same sort of inspiration for the youth today so that they might be able to discover their passion in STEM.
Tell us more about your extracurriculars!
I am currently heavily involved in the High-Powered Rocketry Club (HPRC) here at NC State. In HPRC, we participate in the annual NASA Student Launch Competition, which is a 9 month long process that serves as the senior design project for many aerospace engineering students. NASA has a specific task to be carried out by rocketry teams across the nation each year. Our challenge from NASA this year is to have a camera system in our rocket which can receive signals from the ground to take photos of the launch field. In addition to extensive documentation that must be drafted (preliminary design review (PDR) and critical design review (CDR) to name a few), the team must create a subscale version of their rocket before graduating to the full scale version which will be launched just outside the NASA Marshall Spaceflight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Within this club, I have been very fortunate to have lots of hands-on experience building the full and subscale rockets and to attend many of our launches. I was also chosen to travel with the senior design team to Huntsville Alabama last year for the competition where I could see the culmination of all our hard work. With the help of this club, I was able to build my own rocket this past summer which launched on September 24th, earning my Level 1 High-Powered Rocketry Certification through the Tripoli Rocketry Association. This certification allows me to legally purchase and build high-powered rocket motors within a certain impulse class. I am now working on modifying this rocket to attempt to earn my Level 2 Certification.
Why did you choose these specific organizations at NC State?
I stumbled upon the High-Powered Rocketry Club as I was viewing the aerospace engineering program at NC State during my freshman year of college. I knew immediately that I wanted to be a part of this club. I felt that the projects they were taking part in would give me invaluable experience in preparing for a future career at NASA. Later, when I finally had the chance to tour the campus, I visited the HPRC lab and saw the menacingly tall rockets of previous years through the window. I knew I was in the right place. When my first year at NC State had officially begun, I made sure that I attended every interest meeting, joined the mailing list, and did anything else I could do to solidify my position in this club. Over a year later, I have learned so much about rocketry, NASA as an agency, technical writing, and have made countless connections with people who have worked for NASA in some capacity.
Do you have any plans for after your undergraduate degree?
I am not going to say that graduate school is not in the future for me, but I am currently really eager to begin working in the industry on real world projects. At the moment, I am still pursuing my dream of working at NASA to help advance human spaceflight and, thus, our place in space. I hope to help address the challenges that we will face as we return humans to the Moon and eventually to Mars by designing, building, and testing new versions of spaceflight vehicles.