Campus & community, People, Profiles

From a mechanic in the Navy to mechanical engineering at Berkeley

After working as a mechanic in the Navy, transfer student Rj Kelsey decided to study mechanical engineering at UC Berkeley

a person sits outside on a bench and smiles for a photo
RJ Kelsey is a transfer student majoring in chemical engineering. (Photo by Brittany Hosea-Small)
a person sits outside on a bench and smiles for a photo

Rj Kelsey is a transfer student majoring in mechanical engineering. (Photo by Brittany Hosea-Small)

This Q&A is part of a series of new student profiles for our 2022 back-to-school coverage. Have someone you think we should write about? Contact [email protected].

Can you introduce yourself?

My name is Rj Kelsey, and I’m a transfer student from Mountain House, California.

What are you interested in studying, and why?

Mechanical engineering. I was a mechanic in the Navy, and it kind of got me into the engineering world, so I went with that after I got out.

How long were you in the Navy, and what did your work as a mechanic look like?

I was in the Navy for six years, and three of them were schooling. I was stationed in Virginia for a year, then for two years in Japan.

Did you go in knowing you were going to train as a mechanic?

No, I wanted to be a cook. I went to culinary school before the Navy for nine months. But I got a 96 on the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery), so I was assigned to train as a mechanic.

Did you enjoy working as a mechanic?

It had its ups and downs. We definitely worked a lot more than most people on the ship. We were in charge of pretty much everything. We were responsible for the potable water, so the reverse osmosis machines, the air compressors, the lube oil system, the anchor system, small boats, just a lot of things.

What do you want to do with your mechanical engineering degree?

I’ll have to explore all the different branches of mechanical engineering, but I did a summer program at Berkeley called T-PREP (Transfer Pre-Engineering Program) and found that I really like making things. We had three weeks to make a prototype and present it to big companies. My team made a skateboard brake for manual boards because they don’t have them, but electric boards do.

Did it work?

Yeah. Ours was one of the only prototypes that was functional.