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Catching Up With... Matthew Merchant

Catching Up with… Matthew Merchant

Who: 2017 Graduate of Ryan High School

Hometown: Shady Shores, TX

Age: 18

What’s up?

Sixteen years ago, on a whim, Matthew Merchant’s parents moved his family over 1,800 miles from New Hampshire to Texas. Settled in Shady Shores, Matthew is like any other typical teenager who likes to hang out with his nine siblings, his girlfriend and fish. He’s also actively involved in extracurricular activities, serving as the Community Service Liaison for National Honor Society, the Treasurer for Spanish Honor Society, all while juggling a part-time job.

Most high school seniors, however, aren’t able to say that they’ve already held internships with major companies or consulted on engineering projects before they’ve ever taken a college course. Matthew has done all that and more, including serving on DATCU’s junior board of directors. Now, that he has graduated from Ryan High he’s headed for bigger things.

But don’t take our word for it, here’s Matthew in his own words…

Denton ISD: Earlier this year, you were designated a National Merit Commended Scholar and an AP Scholar - congratulations! What was the path you took to receive those awards?
Matt Merchant: For the National Merit Commended Scholar, I took a PSAT (Pre-Scholastic Aptitude Test) class my sophomore year. It was designed to help prepare us for the test. From that class, I learned a lot. My junior year, I scored high enough to qualify for extra distinctions alongside every person from my school who was in the class. I also took five different AP classes, because I’ve always been good at math and science. I was the only person to pass the AP Physics test and I also passed statistics and the English tests.

DISD: So, now that you’ve graduated, what are your plans following commencement from Ryan High?
MM: I am going to go to the University of Texas at Arlington in August where I’ll be a mechanical engineering major. After graduating college, I can see myself working as an engineer for Lockheed Martin or a company like Peterbilt. I’ve always liked working with cars and trucks.

DISD: Have you always known you wanted to work with cars and trucks?
MM: Growing up and starting high school, I always thought I’d be a pharmacist or go into a science or biology related field. I started the engineering program at the LaGrone Advanced Technology Complex (ATC) when I was a sophomore and my interests switched. There, I learned that you can design anything you want from the computer design of a part to actually creating it by using a 3-D printer, CNC machines and a plasma cutter.

DISD: What projects did work on at the ATC?
MM: I worked on an electric dragster, creating the model for all the parts and manufacturing some. Last year, our project was to make the dragster as energy efficient as possible and we figured a way to get a crazy number of miles per energy. We also focused on designing the front end last year and this year, we focused on the shock attachments, back wheels, and battery storages. In December, we switched to working on the food truck. I did most of the computer modeling of the bus and created the different mounts for the equipment to go into. So, we’ve gotten to see all the parts created for the food truck starting from the sheet drawings, cutting the parts, and watching welding (students) assemble it using our designs.

DISD: You recently completed an internship with TDIndustries. Tell us more about that.
MM: My engineering teacher, Mr. Thomas Babb, at the ATC, submitted some of our names for the internship. We gave a presentation for a class project we were working on and after watching the presentation and visiting with Justin Claybrook and others from TDIndustries, they offered me the internship. We worked closely with the Denton ISD Operations Department, and gave quarterly presentations on our energy audits and reports about last year’s energy use. The internship was focused on energy engineering and ways to keep the utility costs for buildings down. Even though it may not be the field I’ll eventually work in, I learned different ways to save money and how giant the costs of utilities are at a high school. The district spends on average more than $500,000 in utilities per high school, annually. TDIndustries also taught me about the tools used to keep track of money, bills and the databases they used to help make sure not to overpay or to watch for water leaks. For example, if there was a water leak at a school, it was reflected in the bills by the huge spike in usage. They would look at the dashboards to see those spikes and then go to the school to fix it.

DISD: What was your biggest takeaway from the internship?
MM: I would say presenting to the Board of Trustees about the previous year’s energy use. It was interesting for me to listen to the different questions that they asked and how they reacted when we showed them what the problem was and how we helped to address it.

DISD: Have you done any other engineering-related work since then?
MM: I recently did some engineering consultant work. Mr. Babb talked to our class about someone he knew that was looking for a consultant. I worked with him as a consultant for his engineering projects. He had the idea in his head and I helped him design it on paper. I mediated between him and his interns who were working to create the model. His interns were having trouble to figure out what he wanted, so I helped.

Denton ISD: Are there any teachers who have helped you along the way or inspired you?
MM: Mr. Babb, head of the engineering department at the ATC, has been great. He was my engineering teacher for three years for that program and really helped me learn different skills. I learned to take advantage of what they offer; everyone’s offered the same, but you must take advantage and really learn and want to do more. Do that and your teachers will go the extra mile for you.

DISD: Any advice for your fellow graduates or younger students interested in engineering?
MM: Because there are so many different types of fields of engineering, go into each field a little bit. Explore electronics, energy, and mechanical/machinery. I worked a little bit in each area and decided what I was good at and what I liked the best. For example, I’m good at good at computer programming but it’s not something I could do every day. What I most enjoy is working with machines and designing parts and manufacturing - that’s how I chose mechanical engineering.