A Hands-on Approach to Career and Life

By:    Staci Jones
Date: May 2, 2018

May Engineer of the Month, Brian Wirthlin, finds fulfillment not only through his hands-on mechanical engineering technology career and travels but also through serving others.  

Brian Wirthlin

With his dad and uncle both being University of Cincinnati (UC) alumni, May Engineer of the Month, Brian Wirthlin, practically grew up on UC’s campus.

“I came to UC for the cooperative education (co-op) program as well as the awesome engineering school, and of course to watch UC basketball,” said Brian.

In deciding a focus in the College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS), Brian knew he wanted to learn the engineering design process while also learning basic machining, welding and electrical work. These facets led him to the hands-on program, mechanical engineering technology.

“My major has been very applicable in my co-op experience as I now have a basic understanding and appreciation for the various trade positions,” said Brian. “The program has given me a well-rounded knowledge of various engineering disciplines and technical skills.”

Having lived in Cincinnati all of his life, Brian saw co-op rotations as not only a great opportunity to apply what he learned in the classroom but also as an opportunity to travel and broaden his horizons. Through his co-op experiences, he has now lived in Raleigh, North Carolina, Boston, Massachusetts and Zomba, Malawi.

Brian completed his first four rotations with GE Aviation. He regards them as very challenging and rewarding experiences. “I was constantly pushed out of my comfort zone and having to learn new things,” he stated.  

At the Durham Engine Facility (Durham, NC) Brian designed tooling for the assembly of the new LEAP engine line.

While at Aviation Component Service Center (Hamilton, OH), he was a technical coordinator for turbine nozzle repairs. He received engine parts from all over the world, fixed them up and sent them back into service. He was able to lead the plant volunteer team, and set up events such as the Salvation Army Adopt-A-Family program.

At the Lynn, MA destination, Brian designed HVAC systems and layouts for many buildings within the urban core. He states that his experience was very challenging and that he had to learn a lot on the job, but states, “it was worth it to see the working completed projects.”

In Evendale, OH, Brian mostly worked in project management for facility renovations, but also completed some projects with the GE Digital team. While there, he had the opportunity to learn a lot about coding and data collection. He spent the majority of his time at the location working on a VBA program to track substation power output throughout the entire plant.

Brian’s fifth co-op was an experiential learning/volunteer semester with Christian Missionary Fellowship (CMF) International as an intern. The fellowship partners with mission organizations around the world and sent Brian to Malawi to work with the Namikango Mission.

During his Namikango Mission, the team was in the process of renovating the 90-acre property and creating agricultural training fields for the surrounding community. The team was also building a new soccer (futbol) pitch for the Namikango Bible College, which is currently under construction as well. Brian completed layouts for these projects in Autocad and staked out the sections on the property for the builders. He was given freedom to design things how he saw best fit, “which made these projects a lot of fun to work on,” said Brian.

While in Malawi, Brian also spoke at church services and youth seminars on the weekends for upwards of 250 people, and had the opportunities to stay with Malawian families in the villages for several nights.

Beyond his co-op rotations, Brian’s favorite UC memories inside the classroom were times spent working on design projects in the computer labs all night with friends. Outside of the classroom, he states that he will always remember the bible study group he was a part of with some of his fellow engineering students, and occasionally a few professors.

“We weren’t a part of any organization, but once a week we would meet up and talk about life, eat too many chicken wings, and sometimes watch some basketball,” said Brian, “Many life-long friendships have come out of this group.”

Brian advises future students to also find similar groups and communities, “get involved in a caring and supportive community, because investing time into people and relationships is invaluable. These are the same people that will push you to work hard and take advantage of the opportunities that arise, and they will help lift you up when you fall down.”

Though he acknowledges the importance of having a community in his corner, Brian states that the aspect he enjoys most about his future career are the assignments that allow him to try and fail on his own.

“I feel like I learn the most when I spend hours wrestling with a problem, and then finally figure out a solution,” stated Brian, “This is what I am excited for in my future career- being presented with a problem and finding a way to solve it.”

Brian’s proudest achievement was being nominated for the Herman Schneider Award. “I focused a great deal on pursuing things that I enjoyed, like traveling, teaching, serving others and of course- aviation,” stated Brian, “It was a huge surprise and honor to find out that I was nominated for an award for doing what I loved.”

Brian has accepted a position in the Operations Management Leadership Program with GE Aviation which consists of three 8-month assignments at different plants within the supply chain. He will be marrying his fiancé, Audie, in September. Together, they hope to travel the country and see where they land in the end.

The College of Engineering and Applied Science congratulates Brian Wirthlin on his outstanding achievements thus far and as the May Engineer of the Month.

Select for previous Engineers of the Month.