Summer graduate achieves lifelong goal of earning engineering degree

MARIETTA, Ga. | Jul 21, 2020

Martin Garcia spent most of his childhood living in a concrete farmhouse in an impoverished area of Guanajuato, Mexico, passing the time by crafting toys out of leftover tools and car parts at a local mechanic shop.

It was during these visits to the shop that he established his curiosity with the function and design of machinery, ultimately inspiring him to chase his calling as a future engineer. This month, Garcia will graduate from Kennesaw State University with a degree in mechanical engineering after an illustrious undergraduate career in the Southern Polytechnic College of Engineering and Engineering Technology.

“Without that experience as a child, I feel that I likely would have never gone on to study engineering,” he said. “I’m proud to be able to say that I have completed the first milestone, and I know that none of this would have been possible without the sacrifice of my parents.”

Martin Garcia

One of four children, Garcia recalls spending much of his early life assisting his parents as they grew corn and wheat on the family farm in Mexico. His mother made it to middle school before she was withdrawn to help support her family, and his father never advanced past elementary school before he was asked to do the same. Determined to create a better life for his children, Garcia’s father would eventually move the family to the U.S., keen on making sure they received the education he never had.

During the summer, Garcia would work alongside his father, a landscaper, where he would learn to appreciate his putting the family before himself.

“In hindsight, it was just him being a good parent,” Garcia said. “He wanted to show me how difficult life could be without an education and encouraged me to seek a better future. Now, I’m happy to say most of my siblings have completed or are attending college, and the youngest is finishing high school with college already on his mind, too.”

After starting his collegiate career at the University of North Georgia, Garcia transferred to KSU in order to study engineering. While taking a course in vibration and control theory, he was introduced to assistant professor Ayse Tekes, who would become one his closest mentors. Often, Tekes would talk about the research conducted by her Dynamics and Control Group, and urged Garcia to stop by the group’s lab to learn more.

“At first, I didn’t think I would be interested in that kind of research,” he said. “But slowly, I started pitching in to help with other projects and ultimately decided that I wanted to stay because I was so inspired by how my classmates were able to design and use their creativity.”

As a lab and research assistant in the Dynamics and Control Group, Garcia became part of a student team seeking a patent for their work in developing a series of take-home educational devices that can be made for as little as $30 using 3D printing technology. Under Tekes, he would go on to lead several teams, training junior students on how to use 3D printers to design compliant mechanisms. Since 2018, he has published five research papers that have been accepted at numerous American Society of Mechanical Engineers conferences nationwide and has completed an internship at Price Industries in Suwanee.

“I truly couldn’t be any more proud of Martin and all that he has accomplished,” Tekes said. “Not only has he been an outstanding research student, he is a terrific role model for all of our students in the Department of Mechanical Engineering.”

Upon graduating, Garcia plans to transition immediately into his graduate studies and join Tekes on a National Science Foundation grant-funded research project. From there, he would like to enter the industry in order to find his niche before ultimately pursing a Ph.D.

“I am not ready to stop learning,” he said. “I feel like I’m only scratching the surface.”

– Travis Highfield

Photos submitted

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