What ‘I Was Meant to Do’: Opportunities at Illinois Tech Clarify Career Path




Seth Graham, a George J. Kacek Scholar (ME/M.Eng. MAE 5th Year): If you want to take your career seriously and really get one-on-one time with faculty and truly master your craft, I’d say come to Illinois Tech.

The overall umbrella term is dynamics and control, but within that I’m studying navigation, taking sensor data, filtering it, and getting a proper estimate of what’s going to happen next during uncertain events.  

You have a self-driving car and it’s got a bunch of sensors. There’s some uncertainty in those measurements, because sensors are not perfect. There’s always going to be some error. How does it localize itself? How does it take the sensor input? How does it make sense of that?

I’m studying a lot of Kalman filtering, and the Kalman filter is an algorithm that takes noisy sensor measurements and it produces an estimate of where an object will be. If you’re going into a tunnel with no GPS signals, there might be some signal interference. We’re gonna have some noisy measurements—there’s some uncertainty—so let’s run it through the algorithm. The car will be at five meters at this time, and it’ll be at, maybe, seven meters on this time depending on the dynamics of the car, the dynamics of your system.

With the Accelerated Master’s Program here at Illinois Tech, I took more advanced classes and now I know that this is the stuff that I was meant to do. It’s so fun.

I did my last internship at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. I was working on a mission proposal  for Mars. I got to do trajectory analysis for a payload, and that’s really all I can tell you.

I’m from the South Side of Chicago, not too far away from here. I think it makes a lot of sense to go straight from high school to a tech school. A lot of these high schools nowadays have good resources. Students are learning computer-aided design engineering courses at high schools, so the bar is being raised.

At the same time, Illinois Tech is willing to work with you and help you out. If you don’t know anything about engineering but you know this is what you want to do, there are a lot of programs to help you get up to speed here at Illinois Tech. Every week I just walk to different faculty offices and I just strike a conversation. We talk about jobs, and they give me really good advice.  

You basically get the ability to problem solve. It will come in handy like all throughout your life. It’s so cool. It’s so cool being in an engineering program.