Project Engineer

Favorite Music:
I listen to mostly pop music with a good beat (for working out), but anything late 80’s or early’s 90 is also my list.
Tell us something unusual about yourself - something that makes you special, unique and not a "typical" STEMinista:
My hobby and special talent is one my biggest accomplishments. It occurred in August of 2013 when I completed my first Ironman Triathlon (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and 26.2 Marathon) in 14 hours 6 minutes and 5 seconds (the cut-off time is 17 hours). I love the sport of Triathlon and it is one of the fastest growing sports in the world. I’ve also spent time in Iraq working with the Iraqi Army. The Iraqis own Abrams tanks and my team is responsible for maintaining the tanks while the Iraqi Army fights the war against ISIS.
Where are you from? Where were you born and/or raised?
I was born in Grand Rapids Michigan and grew up in Zeeland, Michigan. Zeeland is located 15 miles west of lake Michigan, next to Holland, Michigan.
What are you doing/plan to do with your STEM degree?
I majored in Design Engineering from Eastern Michigan University and I’ve worked for General Dynamics Land Systems for 19 years, mostly as a Project Engineer, but also as Program Manager. I manage defense tank programs (designs, schedules, budgets) for tracked and wheeled vehicles. My mission is to create a better tank to help save soldiers’ lives.
Tell us about one person in your childhood who had a great effect on your life?
The one person from childhood to have a significant effect on me was my high school counselor. This person had told me that I wasn’t college material. As a teenager that could have negatively affected the outcome of my entire life. I took this advice from a negative to a positive. As someone who is extremely determined (a lesson I learned through competitive swimming.) I was able to complete my Design Engineering degree at Eastern Michigan University while also receiving a varsity letter in swimming all 4 years. I credit my parents, Harvey & Lenora Berens, my High School swim coach Mike Torrey, and my college swimming coach Maureen Isaac with the tremendous care, support, and inspiration. Without their direction my life may have ended up much differently.
Favorite Dessert:
Crème Brule or Bananas Fosters
Tell us a favorite quote that gets you going, gives you confidence, or guides your life that you would like to share with future STEMinistas.
Sheila Taormina, one of my favorite Olympic swimmers, turned Olympic triathlete, turned Olympic pentathlon athlete, quoted the following verse from the bible after the 2004 Greece Olympics. Philippians 4:11-12, "Learn to be content with all circumstances." Sheila Taormina was expected to place top 3 in the Triathlon event (if not win the gold). Sheila ended up in 23rd place due to extreme leg cramping on the bike portion of the Triathlon. These are truly humbling words and great advice to live by!
I find / always found school to be _____(easy/difficult/fun, etc.) because _____
School was always difficult. Math, physics, programming, designing. Yet swimming competitively was my get away. Or so I thought. When you think about all the physics that go into the sport of swimming such as aero dynamics, drag from the water, buoyancy, etc. I realized it was my job to understand physics in order to be a better swimmer. It took me until college to realize this, but better late than never! In everyday sports such as football, soccer, and volleyball, they all require an understanding of physics. When you make math, physics, programming fun and interesting it makes it easier to understand.


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