Soaring to New Heights: Kent State Students Excel at Lockheed Martin Ethics Competition

The air was electric with anticipation as several students from Kent State University's College of Aeronautics and Engineering (CAE) descended on the Lockheed Martin headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland for the 2024 Ethics in Engineering Competition.

Hosted annually, the competition challenges undergraduate teams to present solutions to complex cases involving ethical, business, and engineering dilemmas. Representing Kent State's Aerospace Engineering program were two teams: sophomore David Hackett and junior Jaden Lepp, and sophomore Cole Dockus and junior Haley Dees.

Sophomore Cole Dockus and junior Haley Dees, and sophomore David Hackett and junior Jaden Lepp

From the moment they arrived, the Kent State group was immersed in the high-energy atmosphere of the event. "It was very energetic and exciting," recalled Jaden Lepp. "Even on the opening night before the actual debates started, there was a lot going on. Lockheed was showing off their newest tech and people from different schools were doing their best to network with the employees and check out the other teams."

Once the competition rounds began, the pressure intensified. "During the actual matches, it was very tense and a little nerve-wracking," said David Hackett. "But the downtime in between was a totally different experience - sharing the room with so many brilliant minds from the industry and fellow student participants was a great experience."

The Kent State teams quickly adapted to the rapid-fire pace of the competition, where matches were held back-to-back with little time for analysis or strategy adjustments. "They began to throw twists into the case after round 3 as well, so a lot of strategy had to be edited and improvised on the fly," Lepp explained.

Through it all, the teams’ camaraderie and collaborative spirit shone. "The team dynamic and debriefs after each round helped me stay calm and excited for what came next!" said Haley Dees.

One particularly memorable moment came during a tense match against Colorado State.

"Neither of us was very optimistic that we had won, and we were struggling to contact our advisor," Lepp recounted. However, after a raucous announcement from Dockus stating, “You're moving on!” Team Hackett and Lepp ran out to the atrium to check the bracket, and sure enough, they had beaten Colorado State and were moving to the Sweet Sixteen. Lepp said, “Neither of us had expected to make it past round two— the whole experience was something else."

The Kent State team's success was not just the result of their technical skill, but also their ability to navigate the competition's emphasis on professional demeanor and communication. "Demeanor and tone of voice is just as important, if not more, than what you are actually saying," Lepp observed. "Teams that came off as overly aggressive, annoying, or insulting were very frustrating to work with, even if they had presented sound solutions."

The support the Kent State team received from the college was crucial to their success in the competition. Several professors chipped in to help the students prepare, including Dr. Benjamin Kwasa.

"Dr. Kwasa was at the competition with us and advised us from the beginning, helping us get ourselves ready," said Hackett. "He was also full of ideas regarding some of the technical aspects of the case."

The teams’ other advisers also played a vital role. "Professor Jason Lorenzon was the advisor for me and Jaden," said Hackett. "He helped us throughout the competition, debriefing us on how we did in our matches. He also gave us a lot of insight into the legalese of the case, which was a huge help for us as engineering students."

Kyle Rediger, a teaching assistant at CAE, also provided valuable guidance to the team. "He helped us a lot through the process leading up to the competition in helping us understand some of the finer details of the legal systems at play, along with understanding safety culture and its importance," Hackett added.

Throughout the competition, the Kent State students also found valuable opportunities to network with industry professionals and fellow participants. "We were able to speak with current engineers and recruiters during our downtime," said Dees. "The judges in each round of competition were also current Lockheed Martin employees. Additionally, there was an entire room of simulators set up to try!"

The experience proved to be a transformative one for the Kent State teams, broadening their perspectives and strengthening their aspirations. "The competition helped me to see how engineering projects and organizations benefit from well-rounded people with different perspectives on ethical issues and problem solving," Dees reflected. "Additionally, the opportunity to network and make new friends was amazing!"

For those considering similar competitions, the Kent State students have a resounding message: "Just go for it," Hackett urged. "I had my doubts signing up for the competition, but I'm so glad that I went out and took the opportunity. The experience was so much more than I could have hoped for, and I'm happy to say that I didn't listen to my doubts at the time."


Check out the group’s Instagram Takeover here

POSTED: Thursday, April 11, 2024 08:27 AM
Updated: Wednesday, April 24, 2024 09:00 AM