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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Student wins national scholarship for engineering research

Noelle R. Haro-Gomez/ Arizona Daily Wildcat Casey Mackin, left, receives The 2012 Astronaut Scholar. Mackin is standing with his parents, Charles and Sabine Mackin and astronaut, Ed Gibson to the right.

While growing up, Casey Mackin would disassemble objects and put them together again just for fun.

Over time, because of his capabilities with computers, friends and neighbors would ask him to fix their electronics.

His obsession soon transferred to computers, and now Mackin, an electrical and computer engineering senior, has earned a $10,000 scholarship to pursue his passion.

Mackin has gone from fixing electronics in his neighborhood to working with UA researchers on embedded systems, specifically on creating custom middleware that allows hardware and software components to communicate.

Mackin was born in Augsburg, Germany, into a military family, and eventually moved to Arizona where he attended high school in Sierra Vista. He decided to come to the UA because of the engineering program and because his brother, now in his first year at MIT as a graduate student, also attended the university.

When asked about his memorable experiences at the UA, Mackin mentioned his work on projects and his excitement when he reached an end result and could demo his work to others.

“It’s the final end product that we get to show to the group, when everything is finally fixed and ready,” Mackin said. “It gives you a sense of satisfaction when everything finally comes together.”

Mackin’s work at the university prompted professors to nominate him for an Astronaut Scholarship Foundation scholarship.

“It seemed like a great opportunity,” Mackin said. “When I read the description for the scholarship it definitely fit with what I was doing.”

The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation is a non-profit corporation that awards 28 scholarships annually to students majoring in engineering, natural or applied science or mathematics who plan to advance their field of study in the future, according to the scholarship’s website.

When Mackin learned that he had been selected to receive the $10,000 scholarship, he was excited to hear that he had won, although some professors in the department expected it.

“Casey is a truly exceptional student and I think that this scholarship confirms that,” said Jonathan Sprinkle, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering and a principal investigator in Mackin’s research group. “I was really proud of him, but realistically I wasn’t that surprised because he’s such a great student.”

Former Skylab astronaut Edward Gibson presented Mackin with a check for $10,000 on behalf of the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation on Wednesday afternoon. Gibson spoke about Mackin’s exceptional accomplishments and the success that Mackin will have in the future.

“I could not be happier to present this to this gentleman,” Gibson said, before presenting Mackin with his scholarship. “When you look at his background and what he’s done, you realize he, and others like him, are going to ensure our nation is really in good hands.”

Following graduation, Mackin plans to attend graduate school and earn a doctoral degree. When discussing his plans for after graduate school, Mackin mentioned staying in academia and working as a professor in order to conduct research as well as teach.

“It’s really the influence from the professors I work with here and my research advisors,” Mackin said. “I enjoy doing research and working as a professor allows you to continue doing research and get involved with other students that have interests in your research.”

Professors who know Mackin are confident in his future, no matter which career he decides to pursue.

“Casey has the background, the technical skills and the motivation that he can really do whatever he wants,” said Roman Lysecky, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and Mackin’s research adviser. “I think he’s capable of doing anything he really wants to.”

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