First-year student Connor Martin’s high school in Wall Township, NJ, focused heavily on the arts. He was used to being pulled into photoshoots and video projects, designing mobile apps, and creating marketing material for local nonprofits such as the American Cancer Society and Red Bank CROP Hunger Walk.
It may seem unexpected that he followed his high school career with a major in chemical engineering at Notre Dame. But Martin says that, while the focus of his education in both places differs, the values are the same. In high school, Martin developed a passion for using his education to make a difference in the world, so Notre Dame, and the University’s commitment to acting as a force for good, felt like a natural fit.
In high school, he also took courses in computer science and design and gained experience in media production, which felt like “a foot in the door to engineering,” says Martin. “I knew that at Notre Dame I could study with some of the brightest scholars of engineering, science, and global affairs who are just as committed as I am to helping others.”
Martin is currently planning a career in healthcare and he’s bringing prior experience with him. In 2018, Martin and fellow students developed an app and competed in the Congressional App Challenge, a national competition for middle and high school students. After speaking with special needs educators, therapists, and researchers about students’ needs, Martin and his group used Java and XML to design an app called brADLey. It uses games to help improve the skills of autistic children when dealing with the Activities of Daily Living (ADLs).
Martin also worked with a research team at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and School of Information & Communication to develop a web-based decision support tool for bone marrow transplant patients. The program incorporated video testimonials from patients and caregivers, personalized health statistics, and curated articles related to bone marrow transplant.
As you might expect, Martin’s favorite class, currently, is his Introduction to Engineering class. This is a class all engineering students take in their first year. It combines learning the fundamentals of engineering with exposure to each of the different fields available as majors at Notre Dame.
It’s hands-on, which is what Martin enjoys most about it.
“We were designing basic wind turbines out of paper and cardboard on the third day of class,” says Martin. “It is a super fast-paced environment. We do a lot of collaborative projects and you gain a lot of skills that could be directly applicable to an internship or a job in the future.” Watch the video above to see the students’ current projects in action.
Martin is taking seven classes for a total of 19 credit hours, but he has time to pursue his love of engineering outside of class too. A member of the Notre Dame chapter of Engineers Without Borders, Martin spent his first winter break in Ecuador, where students are leading a water chlorination project at a rural school damaged by earthquakes in 2016. The experience has allowed him to meet other engineering students and to learn about engineering firsthand, from assessing viable projects for the community in which students are working, to data collection and analysis, to understanding concepts around water pressure and soil compaction.
Martin will continue learning through service through the Summer Service Learning Program through the Center for Social Concerns. In Charlotte, NC, he will spend eight weeks at Holy Angels, a residential center for children and adults with a range of intellectual and physical disabilities. Martin plans to develop a more complete understanding of challenges faced people living with disabilities, assisting in physical and cognitive therapy sessions and day-to-day living.
Along with his studies, Martin has taken advantage of the residential life so intrinsic to the Notre Dame experience. He lives in Siegfried Hall where, he says, “It would be hard not to make friends. Your dorm becomes your family.” As a merit scholar, Martin also takes courses connected to the scholars’ program and enjoys taking part in community activities.
So far, both the academics and community at Notre Dame have more than lived up to Martin’s expectations. “There was a strong alumni presence around where I grew up, so that’s how I first got to know Notre Dame,” says Martin. He’s glad the alumni in the area introduced him to the University. “It sounds cliché, but Notre Dame really does feel more and more like home every day I’m here. I couldn’t imagine myself anywhere else.”
Watch the video above to hear more about Connor Martin’s academic experience and check out other First-Year Journeys below.