Class of 2013
Recruited by colleges with Division I programs, Larry Slaughter ’13 assumed he would play big-time NCAA soccer and earn his college degree. However, a fee waiver changed his mind.
“I applied to Cornell’s Diversity Hosting Weekend and actually didn’t get in, but they sent me an application [fee] waiver,” he recalls. “When I was applying to different schools, I remembered I had the waiver. I knew that Cornell was a prestigious Ivy League university. How could I not apply, knowing that I could apply for free?”
When he was accepted to Cornell, Slaughter’s mother, a special education teacher in East Cleveland’s inner city, made her preference clear.
“My mom said: ‘You can’t pass up this opportunity. This will change your life. You definitely should choose Cornell,’” he recalls. “I did, and I’m very happy with my decision.”
His next decision—what to major in—was easier. Math and science were always his favorite subjects in school, so engineering—a career that combined the two—was a natural fit.
At first, Slaughter was not certain what area of engineering he wanted to pursue, but he soon discovered that he liked the hands-on aspect of mechanical engineering. He also appreciated how he could “see a system work and be able to write out an equation,” he says, and then predict how it would function.
An engineer for Earth
Since determining his major, Slaughter has made the most of opportunities to conduct research on sustainable building systems. From July 2010 to November 2011, he was a research associate for Associate Professor Brandon Hencey (whom he says is a “great mentor”) to help build the heating and cooling system for a scaled-down modular building used to test sustainable technologies.
“That experience in the lab directly translated to my experience as a Kessler Fellow, which I did not anticipate at all,” says Slaughter.
For his Kessler Fellowship, Slaughter spent the summer of 2012 working for Alphabet Energy, Inc. in Hayward, California. His duties included market analysis for the company’s chief executive officer and business development team, and work with engineers on product testing and development.
“Alphabet Energy makes a thermoelectric material that takes waste heat and converts it into electricity,” says Slaughter. “An application of this might be a smokestack for a factory. Accessing the heat from the smoke enables you to utilize the thermoelectric technology and generate electricity, which can supplement the factory’s energy use.”
The entrepreneurial engineer
Slaughter also used his time at Cornell to explore his interests and stretch his entrepreneurial chops.
As a junior participating in eLab, the business incubator for students supported by Entrepreneurship@Cornell, Slaughter, along with a friend, developed careerEXPLORE.com, a website intended to help students learn about internships in their particular areas of interest. If a first-year mechanical engineer at Cornell asks ‘What does a junior mechanical engineer do for an internship over the summer?’, the program provides a list of testimonials about past internships.
CareerExplore.com was a finalist in the 2012 Big Idea Competition run by Entrepreneurship@Cornell. This year, a website called 15 Minute Mentor (15MM), developed by Slaughter with another friend, was a 2013 Big Idea semifinalist.
“15MM is an informal, comprehensive info session, in which students can log on and watch young graduates from their schools talk about their day-to-day work experiences via an online video platform,” he explains.
“One thing I’ve learned from my work with Career Explore and with eLab is that you need to know what people want before you build it,” Slaughter says. To discover what his target consumers will want, Slaughter says he’s doing extensive market research: talking to students, alumni, and career services offices to identify the exact features with which they should launch.
The volunteer engineer
During his time at Cornell, Slaughter also volunteered as a mentor for the Scholars Working Ambitiously to Graduate (SWAG) retention program and for the CU Empower program. He also spent time during spring break 2012, using his Cornell Tradition stipend, to volunteer in a Costa Rican turtle conservation program on the country’s northern coast.
“At night, we took four-hour shifts walking up and down the beach, trying to protect turtles from poachers. When a turtle came onto the beach, either you got to it first or the poachers, who were carrying machetes, did,” he says. “Luckily there’s a no-conflict agreement. If we were first to arrive, we were able to keep the eggs. We would take the eggs and bury them near our campsite, where we could watch them at nighttime.”
After graduation, Slaughter, as a founding member of the Cornell chapter of WAVES for Development, a microfinance company that raises money via surf tourism, will head to Peru with 14 others. The group will perform energy audits for three surfing centers, design low-cost solar panels to be used at the centers, and build a low-cost water filtration system for the town.
Following his post-graduation volunteer time, Slaughter will begin a position as a consultant with Accenture in New York City. However, his Cornell experience is not over yet. Slaughter has been accepted into Cornell’s MEng program in mechanical engineering.
Slaughter has a message for future Cornell undergraduates: “Be open to every experience,” he says. “I never anticipated that I would conduct research specifically within sustainable design. I tried it and liked it. I never partook in an entrepreneurial experience before college, but I had an opportunity to jump into that, so I did.”
As a result of the varied learning experiences and opportunities that Cornell offered, Slaughter is on a path he never expected.
“My experiences have been very random,” he says, “but I’ve loved the surprise of it, and how things have worked out.”
Learn more at http://www.engineering.cornell.edu.