About Carly


Aerospace Engineering

Major: Aerospace Engineering
Minor: Human Factors
Hometown:Berea, Kentucky
Campus Involvement: Honors Program, Introduce a Girl to Engineering Workshop Committee Ambassador for the Society of Women Engineers, EcoCAR Mobility Challenge Controls Development and Testing Team Member, ERFSEDS Pathfinder Project, The Avion Contributor
Why I chose Embry-Riddle: I chose Embry-Riddle because I fell in love with the campus the moment I saw it through a plane window. The campus tour was amazing, and the campus seemed like a place I'd want to call home for the next few years.

I Watched the Product of Literal Rocket Science

Spoiler alert: It was freaking awesome, and hopefully, one day, I will be in a mission control room…

So, as space lovers like myself are well aware, the Crew-1 mission launched on Sunday from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Since I live in Daytona now, I was lucky enough to be able to see it from ~10-11 miles away. And let me just say- that was awesome.

Since the Crew-1 was a crewed mission, a lot of people wanted to go. Thankfully, Embry-Riddle is only an hour or so away from Cape Canaveral, and everyone knows it. Because of the proximity, there’s a group chat on Snapchat full of people that like attending rocket launches. A lot of people- and I mean a lot– of people decided to go to this launch, whether they are in the group chat or not. Here’s what my snap map looked like nearly two hours before the launch:

Yeah, a lot of people went down. Some people made it a full day endeavor, hanging out at Cape Canaveral/Titusville/the Kennedy Space Center. If I had the time, money, and a car of my own, I definitely would have. Embry-Riddle has ZipCars, so people with ZipCar accounts can drive the ZipCars. That’s how my friends and I got a ride down there.

My friends and I settled on a bridge nearby to watch the launch. The bridge was pulled up, and the lights were pretty bright, so we decided to go exploring. We found a path that led to a birdwatching spot and realized that the launch pad was right in front of us. (We were facing south, north of the Cape.) Once we realized that, we instantly took a seat on the birdwatching benches.

There was no service for most of us, but luckily, one of our friends had 5G service. He streamed the launch and played it through one of our other friend’s Bluetooth speaker, but since he had limited cellular data, turned it off 30 seconds before launch. (We only had it on to ensure that the launch didn’t scrub.) While the stream was playing, we talked about the launch, including the rocket’s trajectory. Most of us were aerospace engineering majors on the astronautics track. Then, the launch pad lit up right in front of us, and we all started cheering.

We all screamed when we saw this. Photo credit: me.

It was crazy. It was as if the night had turned into day for a split second, and then we saw a tiny burst of light streaking up into the sky:

The little dot is the rocket. Photo credit: me.

We all had our cameras and filmed the little rocket shooting up into the sky. A few moments after the rocket launched, we heard the loud rocket rumble, and we were so close that we could feel it in the ground. I totally understand why some people cry during rocket launches- it was amazing to watch. This is how far people have come- we’re sending each other into space. This is the product of literal rocket science, something that I’m lucky enough to learn at Riddle. I couldn’t stop thinking about it- one day I could do something like that with my degree.

Since the rocket trajectory was going northeast, it curved to the left in the sky. We were able to see everything: we saw the first stage booster separate from the rocket, and then we watched the second stage booster ignite. After that, we watched the rocket get smaller and smaller until it disappeared into the sky.

We waited around in case we could see the first stage booster coming back down to land on the drone ship, but unfortunately, we didn’t see it. After that, we headed right back to Embry-Riddle. The roads back were quite busy, since people had a lot of different spots to watch from. One of my friends took this from a beach:

Crew-1 from the beach. Photographer wished to remain anonymous.

This is the second rocket launch I’ve seen; the first one was the Starlink launch in August. I’ve noticed that Crew-1, however, had a lot more attendees to it. It was absolutely amazing to watch, and I’m really glad I got to go. Even those who didn’t make the drive down to Cape Canaveral were able to see the launch from Riddle’s campus, which is another thing that I love about going to Riddle. On Friday, I had a test, so I couldn’t drive down with the rocket-watching group chat to watch the Atlas V launch close up. However, I could easily see it from Riddle’s campus!

Somehow, I Won Two Halloween Costume Contests

Well, now Halloween is over, and so are the Halloween events. Embry-Riddle hosted several events this year despite the pandemic:

The student government association (SGA) also had free treat bags for students in the Student Leadership Suite all week, which was very nice of them. Each treat bag had a drink (some had Starbucks Frappuccinos and Gatorades!), a full-size candy bar, a bag of chips, and a small bag of fruit snacks.

The Honors Student Association hosted a door decorating contest, room decorating contest, and costume contest that all of their members were invited to participate in. I noticed a few doors being decorated, and some other people left free candy outside of their dorm room for the entire week preceding Halloween. Some of the candy buckets are still there.

This year, I didn’t have too much time to come up with an amazing costume, and I didn’t have too much money to spend. However, I was able to come up with two low-effort costumes: Regina George (from Mean Girls!) and Miss ERAU the CFI.

On Friday, I decided to dress up since I saw several others doing it. I had a crown, so I threw on a white shirt and black pants and decided to cross over the beauty queen idea with the flight instructor idea that I’d had earlier in the year. The Embry-Riddle certified flight instructor (CFI) uniform consists of a white polo, black pants, and black closed-toed shoes, which was pretty easy to replicate. This year, Miss America is a pharmacy student, and she often wears her lab coat on her Instagram, so I decided that “Miss Riddle” could be a CFI.

With a little help from the SGA, I was able to borrow a blue graduation stole to make my sash. I used two paperclips, one at the top and one on the bottom, to help make the cross, and I was good to go! I walked around campus as Miss ERAU on Friday, and then had plans to be Regina George on Saturday. I even stuffed some papers in a pink folder to make the Burn Book:

However, the heat and I did not get along. Since I’m in Florida, I overheated very quickly and changed back into my Miss ERAU costume, which I wore for the rest of Friday.

On Saturday, the Halloween events started at 6 PM. I met a few friends outside of the student union, and we explored the festivities. There was plenty of treats at different tables: candy apples, bags of candy, hot apple cider, and even full-size donuts. Inside the student union, the school had set up a haunted house. I tried to go in with my friend, but we chickened out three times. Our friends eventually got her to go through it, but I decided to be a chicken and not give myself nightmares.

At 7:30 there was a costume contest in front of the student union, and I decided to enter it. There were seven categories: Best Group, Blue & Gold, Scariest, People’s Choice, Most Creative, Best Homemade, and Air & Space. My costume fit best under Blue & Gold, so I chose that category. The judging committee consisted of a few students, one of which was the SGA president.

The contest was really well organized. Once the category was announced, the entrants lined up on the side. Once the judges were ready, they then walked in front of the spectators and the judges’ table. Contestants would then state what they were to the judges and student body before walking off to the side. The process repeated until every costume in the category was judged, and then it started all over again. There was also a photographer from the Student Engagement & Student Union department, and he took photos of all of the contestants.

The costume contest was very entertaining for both spectators and entrants. One of the funniest group costumes (in my opinion) was this group of guys:

Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister of the UK, has made an appearance. He is accompanied by two flag carriers and a member of the Embry-Riddle Flat Earth Society.

After all of the judges had judged the costumes, they announced that voting for the People’s Choice costume was open. To vote, students scanned a QR code and voted on a CampusGroups poll of the entrants. While that happened, the judges determined the winners.

I ended up winning the Blue & Gold category and the People’s Choice category. I got a $10 Starbucks gift card for the win in each category, and the People’s Choice win also came with a Cards Against Humanity set. I also got two certificates.

After the costume contest, Touch-n-Go, the entertainment division of the SGA, screened The Nightmare Before Christmas. Riddle-sponsored Halloween events were after that, but one student hosted a bonfire in the fire pit by New Residence Hall Phase II, which several other students attended.

I thought Halloween was great this year despite the pandemic. I’ve never experienced a pandemic-free Halloween at ERAU, but this year there was a surplus of events. I heard that the haunted house was really well done, but I was not willing to test it out. In my opinion, the SGA and Student Engagement teams did really well, especially with the amount of free candy.

And let’s be honest, one is never too old for free candy.

Hi, I’m Carly! The Pilot (AE) Intro Post

Hello, world!

Hello there! I’m Carly McDonald from Berea, Kentucky. As you might notice above, I’m a freshman aerospace engineering major. However, I didn’t start that way- I actually switched my major less than one month into school. Before I was an aerospace engineering major, I was an aeronautical science major.

By now you might be thinking, “She did what?” or “She did not.” Yes, I did. This was me after my first flight here at Riddle:

First Riddle flight with N437ER on August 27, 2020.

So, what made me change, and how’d I get here?

When I was eight years old, I went as a pilot for Halloween. I had just brought my little sister home from China (she and I are both adopted), so I chose to ‘work’ for Cathay Pacific. I decided to be a Boeing 747 pilot since the Boeing 747 was the airplane that brought both of us into the United States. My parents helped me make my uniform, including a little crew member badge, and I went trick-or-treating in ‘uniform’ that year.

Me as a pilot for Halloween.

Fast forward eight years later. I was a sixteen-year-old junior in high school knowing that I wanted to major in something STEM-related. Several college magazines had arrived in the mail and my dad was looking through them while I ate lunch. He stopped at one page and pushed the magazine towards me and said, “Take a look at this one.”

I finished my lunch and looked over the college page, which was Embry-Riddle’s. The more I read about it, the more I liked it and wanted to apply. A few months later, in June, my family planned a college tour trip. We had just flown into DAB when I got my first glimpse of Embry-Riddle through the plane’s window. It was almost midnight when we landed, but I was able to recognize the student union as we landed on runway 25R.

The next day, I took the engineering tour. I was still undecided about what I wanted to do, but by that time, I had narrowed it down to aerospace engineering (AE) or aeronautical science (AS). My mom had registered me for the AE tour, and I loved it. I saw lots of different things that looked interesting: the rocket lab used by ERPL and ERFSEDS, the EcoCAR trophies, and so much more.

From that moment on, I knew that I wanted to attend to Embry-Riddle.

June 2019, post-tour.

Over the summer, I did a lot of thinking. I decided to apply as an AS major and pursue my eight-year-old self’s dream, but I still liked the idea of being an engineer. I eagerly submitted my application to ERAU in August of 2019, and on October 18, the decision came. I was actually away in Northampton, MA touring another college when my parents texted me a photo of the envelope. I told them to open it, and then they sent back a photo of my acceptance packet.

As my senior year progressed, I grew more eager to get to campus in the fall. I was invited to apply to the Honors Program, and in February, received my acceptance email. I planned to attend preview day before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, and was extremely disappointed when I couldn’t attend, but I looked forward to my move-in day.

So… yeah, I have a lot of stuff.

My family decided to drive down so I could bring all of my stuff since I had a lot of it. (Pro tip: if the upperclassmen say “it won’t fit,” don’t listen to them, you can still make it fit!) I had a basic idea of what to expect my dorm to look like since there is plenty of information on the Internet. I’d visited the ERAU website so much over the past month in preparation for college that I practically had all of the links memorized.

Move-in day was kind of hectic, but I was able to successfully move in. ERAU gave us large blue bins to help cart our stuff in.

Move-in day!

As I settled into life at ERAU- and came to terms with the fact that I was finally at Riddle- I also thought about my major and what I wanted to do with it. I had continued to think about it all summer, and I had set my schedule up with mostly general education classes that would count to either the AS or AE requirements.

The decision didn’t really hit me until after a few flights. I was one of the lucky students; ERAU has a lot of AS majors, so not everyone is assigned a flight block. However, the one they gave me was from 5:30-10:50 AM, and I am not a morning person. I loved my instructor pilot (IP), but after a few flights, I realized that I didn’t really want to be a pilot as a career, which is the purpose of the AS degree.

After I made my decision, I told my advisor, and she pointed me in the right direction. I switched majors with relative ease and dropped my flight block. However, the add date for courses had already passed, so I was stuck in AS121, the private pilot ground school course, so I could maintain my full-time student status. That’s okay; it just counts as an elective class, so I’m still making progress towards the AE degree.

A little while ago- October 2020.

Currently, I’m taking fifteen credits, and I’m happy with my schedule. I’m part of several different activities on campus: the Honors Program, the ERFSEDS Pathfinder project, the EcoCAR Mobility Challenge Controls Development and Testing team, and I’m the Introduce a Girl to Engineering Workshop Committee Ambassador for the Society of Women Engineers. I think that I’ve made the right major decision for me (haha… a major pun… get it?), but obviously, that could change. We’ll see!

I’m super excited to join the blogging team and I can’t wait to start writing about all of the crazy educational stuff that I do here at Riddle. I’m still learning how college works, but if there’s anything at Riddle you want me to write about around here, let me know.

Bye for now!