Home run! Softball star doubles as aerospace engineer

Reanna Cervantes gets ready to hit the ball at bat.
By Julie Kayzerman

February 15, 2019 — Look out for No. 9!

That’s the pregame sentiment from opposing coaches as they prepare their teams to play Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Division I softball team.

Reanna Cervantes at bat for the Knights. (Photo by Larry Levanti)

Senior engineering major Reanna Cervantes — No. 9 — is a double threat. Offensively, Cervantes led the Knights in batting average (.336), doubles (13), home runs (4), runs batted in (24), total bases (65), on-base percentage (.395) and slugging (.607) last season.

Defensively, she was named second-team All-Northeast Conference as a catcher.

While coaches are busy planning their game strategies around the power-hitter, Cervantes is in the robotics lab or tutoring her peers in math at the Metropolitan Campus.

Cervantes does her homework a week and a half ahead of time, and every part of her day is scheduled — that’s how she balances her Division I dominance, while working toward her ultimate goal of becoming an aerospace engineer.

“Her great time management skills allow her to balance everything while also performing at a high level on the softball field, where she is one of the best players in our conference,” says head coach Chris Foye.

It’s a bit simpler for Cervantes: “I have to be ahead or else I’m behind.”

Meanwhile, the engineers at CIRCOR Aerospace in Corona, Calif. — her home state —get ahead each day too, thanks to a program she coded during her internship there over summer 2018.

At CIRCOR, aerospace engineers develop and supply machine parts for aircrafts. Cervantes spent her summer working on a Rolls-Royce M17 butterfly valve and coding programs to test each machine.

Two computer monitors sit side-by-side. A hand is holding a computer mouse.
Cervantes programs a code for the engineers at CIRCOR Aerospace. (Photo courtesy of Cervantes)

“I learned a whole new programming language,” Cervantes says of her internship. “Then, I wrote codes that the engineers are able to test… [to see] if certain screws will pass or fail depending on the material, diameter, length, material, force that is administered, number of screws in an area, etc. It’s a means of making sure that the machine will work before being manufactured, and to see the max force it would be able to take.”

While her days first as an intern began with entry-level work, her responsibilities quickly evolved once she learned Visual Basic for Applications (VBA), the programming language of Microsoft Excel. By the time summer ended and her internship complete, she had written the codes that are now used every day by CIRCOR engineers.

Cervantes grew loving planes as a result of her mom working for United Airlines. Meanwhile, knowing that math was always one of her strong suits, she realized her love for both science and engineering in high school after joining a STEM (science, technology engineering, mathematics) program.

Eventually she discovered aerospace engineering — the perfect way to join her passions for aircrafts and STEM.

“I never knew how I could put planes and engineering together. I thought planes were a set-in-stone thing that weren’t changing,” she says. “It was news to me that they’re something that are constantly being updated and reprogrammed… so it just all kind of came together.”

Although her schedule is demanding, being able to play the sport she loves while pursuing her career goals makes it all worth it.

“You can say I’m living the dream,” Cervantes says.

Reanna Cervantes and family
The engineers at CIRCOR Aerospace still use the code Cervantes programmed during her internship every day. (Photo courtesy of Cervantes)
Reanna Cervantes playing softball
Cervantes is a 2018 second-team All-NEC catcher. (Photo by Larry Levanti)
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