Reed Blanchard and Caryanne Wilson

Graduation Spotlight: Meet Reed Blanchard and Caryanne Wilson

May 3, 2023
By Chloe Arrington

As we come to the end of another academic year, the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering celebrates our graduates. Meet mechanical engineering major Reed Blanchard and nuclear and radiological engineering major Caryanne Wilson who are preparing for their next chapter after graduation. We asked them to look back on their time at Georgia Tech and talk about what’s to come.

What drew you to Georgia Tech? 

Blanchard: After visiting Georgia Tech, the decision was easy – I quickly fell in love with the campus, the people, and the vibe. Tech has such a range of opportunities, and everyone feels so encouraged when it comes to trying new things. While I’ve been on campus, I’ve been able to sing in the Glee club, perform with the improv troupe, and cheer on the football team with the Goldfellas, which are all things I never saw myself doing before college.  

At first, I was singularly concerned with academics, but I remember my high school robotics coach telling me to ‘not choose a college because of its academics.’ While I thought he was a bit crazy at the time, what I realize now is that when I was picking my college, there was so much more to consider beyond academics. The best experiences of my college career – completing an Ironman triathlon, writing a novel, and building Seek Discomfort Club – were created outside the classroom and uniquely available to me because I chose Georgia Tech. 

Wilson: I chose Georgia Tech because it felt right to me the second I stepped on campus for my admitted student tour. Everyone I interacted with loved the school, and they had strong programs with many opportunities to get involved in research. I could just tell the Tech community was one I wanted to be a part of. 

Is there a course you took that stood out to you? 

Blanchard: I think a lot of mechanical engineering students would say ME 2110: Creative Decisions and Design is the most pivotal course during their time at Tech because we have the opportunity to build a robot and compete against other teams, but the most impactful class for me has been ME 4202 – Interactive CAD and CAE. As an advanced computer-aided design class, it taught me to design complex surfaces and assemblies like a Volkswagen Beetle. For the final project, we were given the freedom to design anything we wanted. I started learning guitar last semester, so I designed a Beatles-inspired psychedelic 3D printable electric guitar that I am planning on printing this summer. I took the class as an elective thinking it would be a fun experience, but now I’m considering design as my concentration for my master’s studies at Tech. 

Wilson: I loved my Radiation Detection Lab! It gave me a great basis of knowledge for the rest of my degree. I got to collaborate with other students in the labs to solve problems and discuss results. I also think detectors are really interesting! 

How are you feeling now that graduation is here? 

Blanchard: The feeling is bittersweet. My friends and I made a bucket list at the beginning of the semester and we’re almost all the way through it, so I feel like I truly made the most of my time here. I am particularly excited to see how Seek Discomfort Club and SEED continue to grow as I leave campus. 

Wilson: I’m a little nostalgic but very excited. I have adored my time at Tech and wouldn’t trade it for the world. I am also looking forward to the next adventure! 

What’s your biggest takeaway from your time at Georgia Tech? 

Blanchard: Anything is possible. That’s the motto for Ironman triathlons – a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, and 26.2-mile run. When I signed up for the race, I had never run farther than two miles. I couldn’t swim. I didn’t even own a bike. Yet six months after registering, I crossed the finish line. 

How? I started small. Not with workouts, but with something else entirely. 

Early into my sophomore year, during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, my roommate and I challenged ourselves to a month-long challenge. Every day for 30 days we planned to do one thing that made us uncomfortable. Over the month, we became addicted to pushing our boundaries. We jumped off the high dive, became street performers, produced a record, played frisbee with President Cabrera, ate ghost peppers, took an ice bath, became stand-up comedians, and on and on. Every day I woke up and did something I didn’t think I could do.  

Which brings me to the final day of the challenge. I set out to do something else I’d never done before: run a 5K without stopping. I never saw myself as an athlete, so most of my self-doubt came from not believing I could achieve anything physical. When I started the run, high on the experience from the last 29 days, I realized that I had the power to rewrite that. When I finished the first 3.1 miles, I could already feel the blisters, but if I’d learned one thing from that month it was that I was capable of more than I imagined. So, I kept going. That night I finished my first half marathon - something that I’d thought was impossible only hours before.  

I fell in love with that feeling. The half marathon turned into an Ironman. The feelings of doubt and moments of struggle never left, but I learned that by treating courage as a muscle, and believing in the power of seeking discomfort, I could accomplish anything. 

Wilson: Always say yes! You would be surprised what doors (being flexible and available) will open. Say yes even if you don’t think you are qualified for the task! 

What is next for you?  

Blanchard: After graduation, I will be leading ASK Scotland, a two-week expedition to the UK to explore the impact of the Scottish Referendum, and will intern a third tour with Axiom Space, a space startup designing the world’s first commercial space station. I grew up around NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston and have always dreamed of being an astronaut, so my hope is that starting a career in the commercial space industry will help me one day go to space. 

Next year I will be completing my master’s in mechanical engineering at Georgia Tech Europe. I didn’t get to study abroad during my undergrad, and I could not be more thrilled to spend a year abroad while I finish my schooling. I’m looking to return to Axiom full-time after graduation. 

Wilson: I will be heading to the University of Michigan to pursue a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering.