When Elizabeth City State University Chancellor Thomas Conway paid a visit to the engineering technology lab recently, senior Darius Witherspoon made certain that the school’s chief officer understood just how 3-D printers work, what sort of practical applications are involved in their use, and just how much work goes into understanding the technology.
When Chancellor Conway left the lab, he had a better understanding of the technology, thanks to Witherspoon’s patient and knowledgeable explanations.
“I was always a technology kind of guy,” said Witherspoon. “I spent the majority of my time working on computers and troubleshooting.”
Witherspoon grew up in rural Warrenton, North Carolina. Standing 7-feet tall, the engineering technology major looks more basketball player than mechanical engineer. And while he is the cheerleading manager – among other Viking Spirit activities – his focus is largely on the technology.
Witherspoon says growing up in a rural community, there wasn’t a lot going on around him.
“It was a small town and everybody moved a little slower,” he said.
So Witherspoon decided that dabbling in technology would be something he could do that wasn’t “main-stream.” And, he adds, it was also a way for him to help people.
“I really like helping people,” said Witherspoon. “Tech is something that causes multiple problems and it gives me an outlet to fix things. I’m good at fixing things.”
Witherspoon is also good at creating things. When Chancellor Conway toured the lab, Witherspoon confidently explained the use of 3-D technology in manufacturing, and how the small printers produce prototype parts for large machinery.
The printers, Witherspoon explained, allow an engineer to fine tune the creation of, say, a gear replacement in a large machine. By using the printer, the engineer can make less costly mistakes before the final part is cut in metal, on a larger, more expensive machine.
Witherspoon’s understanding of the technology and his ease at explaining it might indicate a future as an educator, but he has other plans. When he graduates next May, Witherspoon hopes to put his degree and his talent to work, benefitting his community with technology. He says he sees technology as a way for a rural community such as Warrenton to find economic salvation.
“I want to build schools, infrastructure, the economy,” he says.