Engineering avenues

Gary Neal Jr., a senior mechanical engineering major and student leader at Wright State, had a transformative experience during an internship with GE Aerospace.

Sometimes when walking the path toward your future, you discover a side road that takes you in a direction you hadn’t considered. Gary Neal Jr., a senior mechanical engineering major at Wright State University, found that side road during an internship with GE Aerospace.

A native of Columbus, Neal was introduced to engineering in high school through Project Lead the Way, a nonprofit organization that provides STEM courses and development for elementary, middle and high school students.

“Mechanical engineering appealed to me because it is dispersed into all of the other engineering fields and would give me the broadest background,” said Neal.

As a student at Wright State, Neal has participated in several organizations that have helped him along his journey, including the National Society for Black Engineers, with which he has served as treasurer and president. That is where he discovered the opportunity to intern with GE Aerospace.

During the first 12-week rotation of his internship, Neal had to choose a design internship in which he could learn how to design 3D engine parts or learn about the supply chain and manufacturing aspects of the business.

He chose the latter, which he said was the right decision.

“That aspect of the business was definitely more for me,” he said. “I just didn’t see myself sitting in front of a computer all day.”

He learned a lot of what goes into the process of additive manufacturing and appreciated the value of being able to see a project through all of its stages. One such project was the automation of a visual management system, which captures images of inventory and uploads them to a database.

Neal was involved in all stages of the project, from ordering photographic equipment to designing the coding language that transfers photos to secure folders on a database.

He will intern with GE for another 12 weeks, which will be in a more hands-on environment working with maintenance facilities and the machinery responsible for the assembly of engine parts. He will also work with technicians on the shop room floor, helping to troubleshoot technical and mechanical problems.

Neal said both his academic and extracurricular activities at Wright State have helped to prepare him for the real world as well as nurturing his leadership skills.

In addition to serving in leadership roles with the National Society of Black Engineers, Neal served as secretary and president of the Black Student Union at Wright State.

During his tenure as president, the Black Student Union was named the organization of the year and earned a program of the year award for its Black Reality Talks series. Neal described the talks as open discussions among students, staff, faculty and administrators with the goal of problem-solving and making sure student voices have a safe place to be heard.

He said he enjoyed the opportunities that both organizations gave him to help play a role in other students’ academic and professional success, as well as giving him the confidence to embrace a leadership role, a skill he believes will serve him well in his career.

After graduation, Neal hopes to participate in a leadership rotational program either with GE Aerospace or another company and plans to eventually earn an MBA.

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