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Meet the Grads: Alexander Flasch

Photo of Alex Flasch in navy collared shirt in front of building outside on Evansdale campus

Alexander Flasch is receiving his degree in mechanical engineering during the Spring 2024 Commencement Ceremony. During his time at Statler, Flasch was the recipient of the Department of Defense Science, Math and Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholarship and winner of the engineering segment for the fall 2022 Research Apprenticeship Program symposium (WVU Photo/Kaley LaQuea).

Welcome to our Meet the Grads series, highlighting the incredible students from the Statler College who are earning their degrees during the 2024 Spring Commencement. 

Q & A with Alexander Flasch
Photo by Kaley LaQuea


Tell us a bit about your journey. 

One of the things that I thought was cool about West Virginia University and especially Statler College, is one of the reasons I went here — I thought the lab environment was one of the coolest factors and features. I got accepted to other schools, but when I visited I felt that the ambassadors here were very one-on-one and very personal. So that helped me feel like I was a part of something rather than a number that was going to go through a system.

What are some highlights and some memorable experiences you've had during your time here?

When I first came here, I had zero experience. I was just a typical high schooler. I had fiddled with a 3D printer I bought off of Amazon, but I wouldn't count that as knowledge. When I started here, I was very curious in the robotics side of things. It's a big industry today and it seemed to be very popular. And so one of the things I learned about was RAP, the undergraduate research program offered here at West Virginia University. After one of my classes, specifically ME 211 — Dr. Pereira was teaching it — I had asked him if he had any ideas for research or if I could join in some sort of way, and he pointed me in this direction.

So I got connected with the RAP program and did research under him for two semesters, my sophomore spring and my junior fall. And through this I had the opportunity of working in his lab and I got my hands-on experience with field and aerial robotics. And then through that, I was able to build research to show how a manipulator could go up and grab different produce off of a tree or demonstrate that we could use robotics in an agricultural field, which is specifically something that seems to be a hot button where people will talk about the integration of this next step of technology into agriculture, which we've been doing a certain way for so long.

And so I demonstrated this and during the fall of my junior year, we were required in the RAP program to do a research symposium. And so I collected all my research and my data, and the actual gripper. So this would actually go on to the end of a robotic arm and it would move out and you'd have like an apple or something here and it would close. And then it would sense based off the sensor right here where the apple was in it. After that in the symposium when I presented, I actually won first place prize for the engineering aspect of the symposium. Because of that undergraduate research in the spring of my sophomore year, it actually helped me get an internship back home with a company named Service Engineering.

Can you share a particularly challenging moment that you faced?

I think one of the most difficult things is rejections from internships. I think it's one of the most crushing things that we deal with, because as an engineer you feel like 'oh I'm doing something harder than many other people.' And getting a rejection letter from multiple people over and over again, I think it reinforces like 'Am I not a good enough engineer on paper?' When the reality is something a lot of people don't realize: their peers get equally rejected. No matter what their GPA is, what their skill set is or what their grades are, it's hard. It's a hard concept and there's a lot of disappointment there. I got this scholarship, but it was between that and one other internship, and that other internship was in France. So I had applied to like 46 different companies and had gotten rejected by all of them except for those two. But the scholarship didn't come til April, so I was sitting there going 'Wow, I really have no options, I have nothing for the summer.' But again you have to look at that in perspective and be like, 'OK, what is this summer going to teach me then? Am I going to rest this summer or am I going to try to find a job?'

And in that job, I still gain more experience. So I guess in disappointment or in that struggle, you have to always look at it as 'What am I going to learn from this or what how am I going to benefit from this?' and it's OK to take time and be like 'This is not ideal or this is not what I wanted.' But then you always gotta hop back up on that horse and know that it's going to pan out. That's the way that you make it through, especially in challenging degrees like this. This is what I want and this is why I'm here.

What's the most valuable lesson you've learned during your time here? 

I think the most valuable lesson that I've learned between professional and academic is that failure is truly a learning experience. As an engineer, you look to have the best GPA and have all these things. Doing all that you get tired, and you'll mess up on certain things, or you just didn't grasp something that you needed to initially and you gotta work at it. But through some of my failures and setbacks, I had some of the best experiences here. 

For instance, one of one of my biggest setbacks was I had to withdraw from one of my classes because I just didn't do well on some of the exams. I didn't understand the concepts. Then that following semester, I had the the same professor and because of me withdrawing from that class, I couldn't take my capstone when I wanted to. But because of that there was an opportunity that I didn't see and I got to work with Rocky Brook.



Contact: Paige Nesbit
Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
304.293.4135, Paige Nesbit

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Phone: 304-293-4135