John Zamora ’22 wants to dispel the notion that engineering is all work and no play.
Zamora is enrolled in Earlham’s 3-2 Pre-Engineering Program, in which students combine three years at Earlham with two years at an engineering school. The program allows students to get the best of a liberal arts education before becoming engineers.
Zamora credits the liberal arts with helping him consider ideas in new and creative ways. “For example, I’m seeing myself working through problems backward more than ever, something I attribute to my time at Earlham and the teaching faculty here.
“Engineering has a bad connotation of being all work and no play. I wanted to attend an institution that was different from the common places where engineers go. Earlham seemed like a place where normal was not the common practice, so I decided to apply. Thus far, Earlham is teaching me to accept the weird and make it work because it can.”
As convener of Earlham’s chapter of the Society of Physics Students, Zamora has initiated a project where members build, design and test rockets.
“However, I don’t just want to keep that fun to ourselves,” he says of the group. Under his leadership, the SPS holds public rocket launches, for example, and demonstrations of other projects on campus grounds.
“That’s just the beginning. I see SPS holding various events throughout the year like STEM trivia nights where any related major, or simply those who love trivia, can come and have some nerdy fun with friends.”
Where did he get the engineering bug? After seeing his dad fix engines, he began taking things apart and putting them back together at a young age. Then his ideas began to focus on spacecraft after visiting Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry as a kid.
“Ten years from now I want to engineer rocket engines and spaceships that will take explorers to distant worlds, making me an astronautical engineer by trade but an explorer at heart,” he says.
He describes his ultimate spacecraft as one with a self-sustaining engine powered by nonexpendable fuel sources.
“The spacecraft would be able to not only travel through space but expand our view of the universe as a byproduct,” he says. “In the end, if the spacecraft provides the chance for others after me to further our human race in ways I never thought possible, then I have done something great with my life.