Mechatronic Engineering Graduate Lands Dream Job in Robotics
Born in the Dominican Republic and raised in Queens, NY, Jefferson Maldonado knew at an early age that he would someday study and work in the field of mechatronic engineering. Here, we talk to Maldonado about his experience at Vaughn and how his education prepared him to achieve the job of his dreams.
Maldonado started studying and developing a passion for robotics as early as high school. Once he graduated in 2008, he launched his four-year military career as an aviation boatswain’s mate (ABE) on the USS George H. W. Bush (CVN77) aircraft carrier – ABEs play an integral part of the swift and safe launching and recovery of naval aircraft from land or on aircraft carriers.
Maldonado worked his way up quickly in the military. He started as an operator studying catapult and arresting gear, was promoted to maintenance manager, and ultimately worked as supervisor. Of his time in the military, Maldonado explains, “I was always intrigued by engineers who designed advanced systems. Whoever would have thought my Navy experience would have prepared me for what was to come?”
Deciding to get a Mechatronic Engineering Degree
Upon his honorable discharge from the Navy in 2012, Maldonado decided to go back to school to earn a degree in robotics. When he discovered the mechatronic engineering program at Vaughn College, he knew it was the perfect fit. “It was the closest program to my field of interest,” Maldonado said. “Little did I know how instrumental my time at Vaughn would be.”
Joining the Robotics Club
Maldonado joined the Vaughn robotics club as a freshman and made it to the world championships in his first year. His team finished in third place. “It was the greatest learning experience for me,” explained Maldonado. “It helped me learn what needed to be done to win first prize the next time.”
He went on to recruit several classmates and by his second year on the team, they placed first in the United States and second in the world. During his sophomore and junior years, he was the president of the robotics club. Just this year, they went on to win the world championship in the 2016 VEX Worlds Robotics Competition.
Maldonado humbly says that although he learned something from each and every class at Vaughn, it was his involvement with the robotics club that helped him get to where he is today. He said the club was instrumental on many levels, as it taught him how to work as a team player in applying different pieces of the puzzle to keep the project moving within a timeline.
“It’s two-fold. The robotics club helped me with my classes during my first two years, and my classes helped me with the club the second two years,” Maldonado explained. “It was the perfect balance of gaining the knowledge I needed and the opportunity to apply it.”
Mechatronic Engineering Employment Opportunities
In May of 2016, Maldonado graduated from Vaughn College with a bachelor of science in mechatronic engineering (qualifying him as an engineer in both mechanical and electrical engineering) while he already had six job offers from several prominent corporations.
One month after graduation, he accepted a robotics engineering position with ArcBest Technologies, a subsidiary of ArcBest CorporationSM, a transportation enterprise located in Fort Smith, Arkansas. “I was the first robotics engineer to ever be hired by this company,” Maldonado stated. “My job correlates directly with what I learned at Vaughn. It’s just like the robotics club, but on a larger scale. It’s an amazing feeling to know the future of the company depends on the technology we develop.”
When asked if he had any advice to future engineering students at Vaughn, Maldonado quickly responded by saying, “It’s not all about having a 4.0 grade point average. One thing most people don’t realize about our field is that you’re not going to be right every time. You’re allowed to make mistakes. The beauty of it is when you are right, it might be an idea that can change the future.”
The most important thing is to be able to apply what you have learned and stay true to your passion and solid work ethic. “Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty,” said Maldonado. “It’s not always about what you know but about the skills behind what you know that can make the difference.”