Wyatt Shapiro

Major: Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics
Hometown: Olney, Maryland
Activities: Penn Engineers Without Borders (EWB), The Mask and Wig Club
Interests: Going to concerts, backpacking

Why Penn Engineering?

It was an easy decision. I toured Penn on a rainy day, and even with the weather I fell in love with it. But the main reason is the faculty, especially in robotics, where there are some of the best in the field, including Vijay Kumar, Katherine Kuchenbecker, and Mark Yim. To be able to study with them is amazing. Secondly, you are encouraged to take classes outside the discipline – maybe urban studies or business classes at Wharton. Penn does a good job in taking an interdisciplinary approach to education, which results in more balanced, well-rounded studies.

When I was first thinking about careers, I wanted to be an architect. Then I realized it’s really engineers who design the environments we interact with and the way we view the world. It was during a bridge-building competition in high school that I began to think about engineering. I competed on both the state and national levels in the competition, and I got really excited about solving design problems.

I still remember the day I got into Penn, yelling at the top of my lungs sitting at my computer.

Where might your engineering interests take you?

The plan is for me to graduate in the spring with my bachelor’s and, with submatriculation, to get my master’s by December. This dual approach allows me more opportunities to do research and have access to graduate level classes. I get to interact with a lot of graduate students on a regular basis, which makes learning quicker and sets a faster pace. Currently, I’m working in the Penn Complex Fluids Lab, with Professor Paulo Arratia.

Since my freshman year, I’ve been involved with PennEWB, which provides opportunities to apply your engineering skills in different ways, from being an entrepreneur to projects with social impact. EWB is a nonprofit humanitarian organization that partners with developing communities on environmentally and socially sustainable engineering projects. One reason I came to this school was the chance to go to a developing country and work on a project to help the people there.

I was part of a team that went to Cameroon for two weeks to improve an old and inefficient water distribution system. We were able to decrease the bacteria in the water tenfold, and we tripled the water capacity they had at any one time. Just going there was a memorable and life-changing experience that drove home how engineering can help anyone anywhere.

What are some of your extracurricular activities?

I am the band leader for the Mask and Wig Club, the oldest all-male collegiate musical comedy troupe in the country. We just finished our 126th Annual Production “Wishful Sinking” at our historic clubhouse on Quince Street.

I’ve played trombone for 12 years, more than half my life, starting with jazz. On my first day at Penn, I was moving into the Quad when I heard music coming from the rehearsal space. It was the Mask and Wig band. I went to a free show and then auditioned; now I’m the band leader. This group has become a second family to me.

What advice would you give those about to enter college?

Make friends with the people in your classes. It makes the classes more fun, studying together more fun, and it’s more effective for learning. If you can teach something to your study group, it advances your learning more quickly.

Penn is an amazing place with amazing opportunity. The four years go by quickly, so it’s important to have as much fun as you can.