Elena Kamis named Knight of St. Patrick
This year, the Knights of St. Patrick selected 11 students in The Grainger College of Engineering for their outstanding leadership, excellence in character, and exceptional contribution to the college and its students. Aerospace engineering student Elena Kamis is one of them.
For part of the selection process, Kamis, who is a senior, wrote essay responses to a number of prompts. With details and personal anecdotes, Kamis described activities she is passionate about, her volunteer work, what she would like to change in the campus culture, the extreme circumstances she faced in the fall semester of her freshman year, and more.
In one essay, Kamis told a story about a third grader she worked with for two years in the educational outreach program Bulldogs Learning and Succeeding Together—named for the Mahomet-Seymour schools’ bulldog mascot. Over that time, Kamis observed the student, developed a strategy to meet her needs, and watched her blossom.
“After seeing her initial success and interest in the material, I pushed Alex to grow further,” Kamis wrote. “I knew somewhere deep down, there was a confident scientist inside her who just need the permission to become the best she could be. From there on out I made sure she had equal speaking time as the other students, answered all her questions, and made her the leader of her table for group activities. Alex went from timid to confident in the 10 lessons we completed that year. I truly believed I helped a young girl find her place and her passion. That was my goal with all students, after all.”
Another one of Kamis’ essays described a particular issue she resolved while working as an operations intern at HawkEye 360, Inc.—a radio frequency data analytics company in Virginia. Early in the summer, Kamis requested that her boss allow her to use a coding language she was familiar with rather than the language the company used. Her boss said due to complexities posed by company finances and structure, it wouldn’t be possible. Later in the summer, after she had acquired more knowledge about how things were done, she approached her boss again and this time, he agreed with her.
Kamis said she learned “If the group, in school or industry, doesn’t agree with a change you want to implement, it is crucially important to explain how it benefits them or the greater good and how the change will be implemented successfully.”
The first technical project Kamis worked on as a freshman in the Illinois Space Society was a camera mount for a high altitude balloon. She recounted the many tests and failures that ultimately ended with success.
In conclusion, Kamis said, “I’ve used the things I learned from [the high altitude balloon work] repeatedly since that project. It taught me that patience is important and the most successful designs come from repeated testing and working as a group. It requires a team to design a truly successful piece of tech, simply because one brain will never be as creative or technically competent as multiple together. I will continue to make sure I include others in my design processes and get all opinions both before and after testing to truly make my work the best it can be.”
Learn more about the history of the Knights of St. Patrick