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Alumni Q & A

Sam Strickling - Alumni Q & A

Sam Strickling

Sam Strickling is a 2010 Mechanical Engineering graduate. He is currently working as a Research Operations Manager for Nike’s Exploration Team in Portland, Oregon. In this Alumni Q & A, Sam discusses his transition to Nike, his involvement with STEM outreach programs and his advice for current students.

Q: Describe your current job.

A: I am currently the manager of an engineering team within Nike’s Sports Research Lab creating research instrumentation and protocols used to investigate various product behaviors and peoples abilities. We are mainly focusing on future scoped work and investigative research.

Q: What led you to your current position?

A: I have always loved sports and grew up playing them constantly. In college I would try to associate the engineering practices I was learning with what I was doing on the basketball court or football field. After graduation I joined a data acquisition hardware and software company and learned all I could about how to acquire data, who was acquiring data, why and how. After four years, I was offered the opportunity to merge my passions and joined Nike in Portland, OR.

Q: What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

A: Because some of the projects are so novel, building or finding sensors and equipment that we can use can be difficult. However, having many industry partners has been extremely valuable.

Q: What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?

A: Working with athletes is incredible. These are people I regularly see on TV and I get the opportunity to make them better! There is something immensely satisfying about getting someone back from an injury quicker or adding an inch to their vertical and then watching a highlight real dunk.

Q: How do you see the computer science/engineering industry changing in the future?

A: Automation and data storage are going to be the driving factors within engineering. As more devices start generating data about the world around them, storing data, analyzing data and drawing conclusions are going to be crucial. Data security, visualizations and processing is the future of engineering.

Q: What was your favorite course at Baylor ECS, and why?

A: My favorite class was Junior Design because unlike Senior Design, which was much more CAD based, we actually got to build our prototype and work out all the issues of taking something from the computer to real life. I learned a lot about how to design for manufacturability and construction which has really helped me in my career.

Q: What is the one thing you wish you had known as an undergrad at Baylor ECS?

Everyone needs to Code! I wish I would have learned a computer language more fully at Baylor. I took classes in MATLAB®, MathCad, Mathematica, C++, and LabVIEW for various lab projects but I never really understood why I needed to do so. But in this digital landscape understanding basic coding practices is an essential tool I wish everyone coming out of Baylor had.

Q: What are some of your favorite memories from your time at Baylor ECS?

A: Building the truss bridges as a freshman and then smashing them to get their compressive strength. Going to football and basketball games. Watching RG3 bring the Heisman to Baylor. Meeting my wife in North Village! Sleeping in the computer lab in order to finish my FEA analysis. Walking across the stage and graduating.

Q: How are you involved with your community outside of your current job?

A: I have been back to Baylor many times and love guest lecturing there or recruiting current engineering majors. Additionally I am an advocate for STEM outreach programs so I try to find ways to inspire kids to get involved with engineering at a young age, particularly through athletics.

Q: What advice would you give to current Baylor ECS students who might be interested in pursuing a similar career?

A: Ask Questions and Tinker! Design 10% of those ideas in your head and the skills you learn building a garage door opener that can be controlled from your smart phones are skills that will serve you well and spark the one or two great projects that you will be known for.

Learn more about how to get involved as an ECS alum.