Student Profile: Samuel McDonald

Degree: BS Mechanical Engineering Technology, 2018Samuel McDonald Profile Picture

Position: Special project assistant

Research Interests: Composite applications to aerospace

Advisor: Cody Sheltra



Sam is a 2018 UMaine graduate with a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering technology who is currently employed by the Advanced Structures and Composites Center. Prior to working for the Center, Sam had no concept of what it was until his friend took him on a tour. He explained how he came to work for the Center with the following:

“I have a friend who worked at the Center and he asked me if I’d ever seen it, and I said, ‘No, I don’t even know what it is.’ So he showed me around the lab and I was like, ‘This is so cool, how do I work here?’ Then he asked around to see if anyone needed a new undergrad hire, then I took a test, I passed it, and I started working.”

Sam attributes the development of his leadership skills to his time with the Center, as they have “thrived” thanks to the team-based nature of his work. He came into a leadership role thanks to a suggestion he made to one of his supervisors, and now manages, instructs, and trains undergraduate students.

Sam feels that he has learned the most during his time as a mentor, as he said, “I think becoming the instructor teaches you more than being the student, because you have to think about how to explain it to someone, and it strengthens your knowledge about the subject.”

In regards to the projects Sam has worked on at the Center, they have mostly regarded the Center’s rapidly deployable bridge system. Specifically, Sam managed the work being conducted on the shear connections between the bridge girders and concrete deck of the bridges.

Samuel McDonald posing with diploma
“The Army Corps of Engineers wanted a bridge, so we built them one. Featured on the left in this photo is the bridge that me and my friends built earlier this summer. This bridge is made of composite materials. It can last for one hundred years with minimal maintenance and no rust, it can withstand a load of 375,000 pounds, and is designed to be erected within 72 hours. During the fabrication process of this structure, our pioneering allowed us to break world records. As a result of this project, UMaine won a $14.2 million grant to continue innovating the tech. The grant had been won by MIT for the previous twenty years, but not this year. My engineering classmates, my friends, think about how incredibly lucky we are to have already made a mark on society at such a young age. You get to call yourself an engineer now.” – Quote provided by Samuel McDonald

In regards to what Sam enjoys most about the Center, he cited the people he works with and said the following:

“What I enjoy most is that I come here and there’s a lot of intelligent, like-minded folks. I consider them more of my friends than coworkers, and you go through this incredible process of research and development together with your buddies. It’s an invaluable experience that a lot of people don’t get to have.”

Sam also explained that the Center is invaluable to undergraduate students thanks to UMaine’s MET program. He said, “You come to UMaine and study engineering, and then you actually do it at the Center. . . If you get a spot here, keep it, don’t leave.”

Recently, Sam was selected for naval flight school and his goal is to become a fighter pilot. He believes that his work for the Center helped to make him a more appealing candidate to the Navy. He will be attending flight school in Pensacola, Florida.