Meet Nina Vahadi and Delaney Theilman. They are both Tidewater Community College graduates who earned Engineering degrees in May.
During summers both grads are making strides in their careers.
They are now encouraging others to follow their lead. “If I can do this, so can anyone. Take your time and don’t burn out,” Delaney said. Nina added, “Stick to your guns, and don’t let doubt take over. Just keep going!”
Nina, who landed an engineering aide position at Lockheed Martin, is spending this summer as a NASA intern and is working on the Lucy mission. During its 12-year primary mission, Lucy will explore a record-breaking number of asteroids, flying by one main-belt asteroid, and seven Trojans.
“This is really exciting because the mission is focused on the Trojan asteroids to interpret how our solar system started,” Nina said. “I’m going to be working on the hardware for a test flight simulator and can’t wait to get started!”
Last summer Delaney was the leader of TCC’s team for the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Model Design Competition held in June. She led her team to take third place. “Practice makes perfect, and we did plenty of that preparing for this competition,” she said. “We had to come up with our own ideas and not use any kits.”
This ASEE competition is open to students at both 2-year and 4-year colleges. All of the TCC’s participants were members of the Engineering Club and the STEM Club.
Both women say they received phenomenal support from the college. They credit their professors for providing quality education. And also, for supporting them in outside projects.
“When I wanted to bring a wind project to the school, they backed me up and helped me write the grant proposal for the Repowering Schools Small Wind Turbine Research,” Delaney said. “That project is continuing even after I graduate from TCC.”
Nina added, “And when I wanted to bring NASA’s RockOn! program to the school they helped me get the funding.” The RockOn! program enabled students to learn and apply skills in building experiments for suborbital space flight. Student teams from across the nation participated in the program.
Looking back Nina says it’s amazing to see her forward progress. “I started studying biology and was thinking about the healthcare field. And then I realized that I wanted to build things and I found engineering,” she said.
Delaney never thought college was for her until the pandemic hit. “I found myself needing to retrain,” Delaney said. “I’ve been obsessed with Legos forever and spent hours watching TED Talks with women engineers. I was really inspired by their stories and decided to give engineering and TCC a try. I’m so glad I did!”
Both women are proud to represent women in the STEM fields. “There are many women in history who inspire us and have left big footprints for us to follow,” Delaney said. “But you still feel accomplished each step of the way and that in turn helps you keep going.”
Looking ahead, Nina is pursuing an engineering bachelor’s degree at Old Dominion University and will be working full-time at Lockheed Martin. Delany will continue her education at Virginia Tech and is studying computer and systems engineering.
Delaney is a proud Navy wife who has two dogs named Luna and Nova. Nina and her boyfriend also have two dogs they call Rocky and Billy.