Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Great Books Inspire This Undergrad’s Engineering Path

portrait of ben covitz in front of trees

Ben Covitz at FAMU-FSU College of Engineering in Tallahassee, Florida on March 21, 2024. (Scott Holstein/FAMU-FSU College of Engineering)

Ben Covitz is a senior at Florida State University and an electrical and computer engineering student at the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering.

The Boca Raton native loves books and avidly trains in the martial art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He even says it’s helped him be a better engineering student. Recently he shared some thoughts about his engineering journey so far:

About hobbies and lessons:

I enjoy reading great works, such as 1984, Brave New World, and most recently Shakespeare’s Othello.  When not reading or studying, I in train Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) at a gym north of campus. I received my blue belt last semester. BJJ has been a very humbling but rewarding journey for me. It forces you to confront the obstacle in front of you and tackle it head-on. It has taught me that it is all right to fail if you learn why, you failed and try to get better. I have found this concept also applies to my experiences in engineering.

On the allure of engineering:

Engineers get to work on cutting-edge technology, and I love the feeling I get after working on a complex problem and finally getting it. There is no better feeling! Any projects that reach into the future of technology and bring it to life excite me. 

Exciting opportunities:

This last summer, I was a research assistant at the Center of Intelligent Systems, Controls and Robotics (CISCOR). I worked on research with the BOB family. At least, that’s how my supervisor Hamza Asif described it. The four-motor BOB robot I worked on climbed walls. I helped create the prototype for testing using a perf board (a material for prototyping electronic circuits) to connect its microcontroller to a voltage regulator, servo motors and other critical peripheral devices. I enjoyed the team environment while I was there. 

As a joint college fan:

I like the little community of engineers I have been involved with here. The teaching faculty has been very good to me, providing valuable lessons about engineering and life. If you are an ECE undergrad, Dr. Hooker’s “Senior Design” and “Engineering Design Concepts” classes will provide you much of those life lessons I mentioned. Dr. Hooker has great advice on interviews, career fairs and gives engaging real-world engineering examples of what he teaches.

Favorite college experience (so far):

A couple of years ago I was preparing for my Digital Logic final. I was in a group of about 10 students, and we were all helping each other understand the material. We were there for hours, struggling together, learning together. I probably stayed at the college until 2:00 a.m. But it was all right because it was the first time I felt that sense of community. I still see those students in class or when studying or just hanging out between classes, and my community has grown a lot since then, too.

Future impacts:

Education is one of the most important values in my life. I believe everyone should have opportunities and be able to pursue knowledge regardless of race, gender or socioeconomic background. I want to make the quest for higher education more accessible to those who need it and develop a love of science and engineering in the younger generations. It is vital to cultivate an interest in STEM from an early age. Kids can grow up to make unlimited contributions to science and possibly become the next Jack Kilby or Graham Bell.

If he had a superpower:

I know it is somewhat cliché, but I would love the ability to fly. Even if I can’t fly fast, I would like to soar high and look down at the beautiful view and all the people in the area. Seeing them going about their day would remind us not to take things too seriously and to enjoy the little things that make us happy.

In five years…

I would like to be settled into my career, find some projects that I am passionate about and dive right into them. I could see myself pursuing a master’s degree in the future, but I’m not sure what specialty yet. Hopefully, I will have that figured out in the next five years. I also hope to have my purple belt in BJJ five years from now.

Advice for students:

My dad always says, “Just show up.” It is a timeless piece of wisdom with many unexpected opportunities. If you are still an undergrad, go to the Career Fair! Even if you don’t plan on getting an internship for next summer, it is an opportunity to connect with people, learn more about what companies do, and reflect on those experiences later when you pursue an internship or full-time job. Also, working in research labs is a great experience and can be surprisingly attainable for students without much resume experience.


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