Lehman pursuing a dual-degree in engineering

Jake Lehman ’16 came to Cornell for two primary reasons. First, he wanted to prepare for an engineering career by studying at a liberal arts school where he could enjoy small classes and the freedom to explore other academic interests. Second, he wanted to continue his baseball career, and he was inspired by coach Seth Wing.

Jake Lehman '16 is completing an internship with Shive-Hattery Architecture and Engineering in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Jake Lehman ’16 is completing an internship with Shive-Hattery Architecture and Engineering in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

His engineering goals worked out even better than planned when Cornell added an engineering sciences program during his senior year. Lehman wrapped up his academic career with four engineering courses, a significant capstone project related to civil engineering, and an internship with a nearby architecture and design firm. In the fall he will begin the final two years of a dual-degree program, aiming for a civil engineering degree from a larger university to complement his Cornell degree in engineering physics (an individualized major).

Beyond engineering, Lehman especially enjoyed a course in theatre stagecraft, as well as mind-expanding lessons in philosophy. Meanwhile, he helped his baseball team develop into a conference-championship contender.

Q: What are your post-Cornell plans?
A: This summer I will complete an internship with Shive-Hattery Architecture and Engineering in Cedar Rapids. I will be working with CAD modeling software and performing some material testing.

Next fall I plan to a attend either the University of Iowa or the University of Minnesota to complete a dual-degree program where I will earn a B.A. from Cornell College in engineering physics and a B.S. in civil engineering from the other school.

Q: What Cornell experiences prepared you to pursue a degree in civil engineering?
A: The addition of the engineering sciences major helped prepare me for my next few years. I was able to take all four of the engineering courses that were offered this academic year, and these courses gave me some valuable project experience.

In the Introduction to Engineering Design course, we learned to use the computer-aided design software PTC Creo. We worked in multidisciplinary teams to design a grandfather clock and a final project of our choice on the computer.

Some notable projects from the next two engineering courses, Mechanics and Thermodynamics, include working in teams to design and build balsa wood truss bridges, trebuchets, and Stirling engines. I was also able to devote an entire block to my senior capstone project. These courses gave me valuable hands-on design experience that helped me land my summer internship. Many of the math and science courses that I took also helped me build a solid foundation of skills and knowledge needed to succeed in the engineering field.

Q: What is your biggest academic accomplishment?
A: My biggest academic accomplishment was my senior capstone project. I was able to devote a whole block to researching, designing, and performing an experiment that looked into structural resonance and damping to prevent building collapse in an earthquake.

Using balsa wood and hot glue, my partner and I constructed a scale model of the skeletal structure of the tallest building in Memphis, Tennessee, which stands 37 stories. After we built the model, we put together a shake table that allowed us to vibrate the structure at different frequencies, and we tracked its movement at various points using accelerometer chips.

We also developed a virtual rendering of the building using PTC Creo software, and we used finite element analysis to identify points of greatest movement in the structure. After assessing data from both the physical and virtual models, we explored various damping techniques to minimize vibrations, and we were able to find a couple of effective ways to reduce the sharpness of the resonance of the building.

For a few years now, I have been attending the Physics Reading group talks that are typically held once a block. This gave me the opportunity to listen to some very intelligent people talk about physics and engineering topics that aren’t covered in depth during physics courses. For my partner, Raisa Ebner ’17, and I to be giving a talk on our research at the final meeting of the year was a great honor and accomplishment.

Q: Who was your Cornell mentor?
A: Our head baseball coach, Seth Wing, had the biggest impact on me throughout my four years at Cornell. He is the one who originally got me on campus for a visit, and after talking with him about school and baseball at the college level, I knew Cornell would be a great fit for me because I would have someone like him to encourage me and provide me with the resources that I would need to become a successful student athlete.

Since I have been here, nothing has changed. He constantly encourages all of his players to be involved on campus, in the classroom, and in the community, and he is always willing to make sure that baseball does not conflict with other activities. If there was ever anything I needed, I always knew that Coach Wing would do everything he could to help. It’s a great feeling to have a coach and mentor who wants to see you to succeed just as much as you do, if not more.

Q: How did One Course At A Time impact your education?
A: At first I wasn’t entirely sure how One Course At A Time worked, but after a couple of courses I began to figure it out. I realized that it allows you to put all of your focus on one subject and forces you to stay caught up on material and assignments.

Even though many of the math and science courses that I took seemed to move at a very rapid pace, once I figured out a strategy for studying I learned to enjoy the fast pace because you don’t have to wait an entire semester to start applying the things you learned in the first few days or chapters of the course.

One Course At A Time also made it very easy to be involved in other activities outside of class because everybody is pretty much on the same schedule. This means that everyone has two hours over lunch to attend meetings, talks, and presentations.

Q: What’s the most important thing you learned at Cornell?
A: One of the most important skills I have developed at Cornell is time management and communication. Being involved with so many things, there have been some difficult times where I knew that I would have to sacrifice some of my personal time in order to set aside time for something more important. I usually like to take it one week at a time and set a rough schedule before each week. However, many times something will pop up unexpectedly and you need to learn how to adjust to that, prioritize your time, and communicate with your peers. Communication is the key to a group’s success, and I have learned and experienced both sides of it while at Cornell.

Q: What do you most value about your Cornell education?
A: What I value most about my Cornell education is not only what I have learned in the classroom, but also skills that I have learned outside of the classroom that will be very useful in the future. I have developed many leadership and communication skills that I will be able to use the rest of my life. I have been able to work on these skills in group projects, committees that I have been on, and with my team. There have also been many other excellent resources, such as resume and internship workshops, that I have benefitted from.

Q: Why did you choose Cornell?
A: I chose to attend Cornell because of the small class sizes, as well as the opportunity to pursue the dual-degree program in engineering. Having small class sizes allows students to closely interact with professors and other students. I always felt comfortable approaching professors and classmates about  a problem or topic that I was struggling with. Through courses I have taken at Cornell, I have developed some great friendships that will last a long time because of the small-school atmosphere.

Q: What would you tell a prospective about Cornell?
A: The first thing I would tell a prospective student would be that each and every professor cares a lot about what they are teaching, and that makes it easy as a student to fully engage yourself into a course and get the most out of it. The next thing I would tell them would be to get involved. Cornell’s small campus and close community allows its students to be involved in clubs, sports, committees, and research projects with both professors and other students.

Q: Is there someone else who has inspired you?
A: My parents have inspired me and motivated me throughout my life. Growing up watching their work ethic and the way they work with other people has been a big motivation to me. I know how much they have sacrificed for me to be where I am, and that pushes me to be the best student, teammate, coworker, and friend I can be.

Q: What was your favorite activity on campus?
A: One of the things I like most on campus are the Block Breaks. We have six Block Breaks throughout the year and they are always nice because it gives you a nice mental break from class after a solid three-and-a-half weeks of working hard in the classroom. There are always a number of events going on throughout campus over Block Breaks, allowing us to spend quality time with friends.

I also enjoy Late Night Breakfast, which occurs a few times every semester on the Tuesday before finals. This has always been a good break from studying to get some free snacks with friends and classmates.

Q: Favorite study spot?
A: I found myself in the Cole Library a lot throughout my time at Cornell. It has been a little bit of a joke with my friends that if they were looking for me, the library was always the first place to look. I spent a lot of time completing my homework there because it was a comfortable, quiet place where I could focus. In my first few years, I would do my homework in the basement right outside of the Quantitative Reasoning Studio because I would constantly use the workers in there as a resource when stuck on a problem. Overall the atmosphere in the library is a great one to focus and learn.

Q: What have been your most meaningful experiences beyond the classroom?
A: Most of my experiences beyond the classroom have been with my team. Each year we put on a baseball camp that lasts three weeks, and kids from ten years old through high school attend—I also attended as a recruit. Each year the attendance has grown. This means a lot to our team, the athletic department, and the school as a whole because it shows that we are making a difference in the community of Mount Vernon. Many of these kids look up to us not only as baseball players but as young men, and it means a lot that parents are willing to send their kids to learn from us.

Along with working the camps, it has been an awesome experience coming into this program that Coach Wing has built up and just be a part of it. Our team has grown each year that I have been here, and we have been more successful each year, as well. That is a tribute to Coach Wing and the type of players and assistant coaches that he brings in. We went from not making it to the conference tournament to playing for a conference championship last year, and it has been a fun ride to be a part of that turnaround.