Oh, The People You’ll Know: Caitlin Benvau
Caitlin’s interest in engineering sprouted from her love of art and video games. In middle school, she created video game props for cosplays, which involved a lot of designing and building. One such prop was the Fallout 3 Pipboy; she made a rosin cast to create the outer shell and wired some basic circuits that she learned from an electrical engineering book. The Pipboy was semi-functional, with knobs that would turn LEDs on and make it look realistic. One of her favorite aspects of engineering is being able to create projects like this that take a design and turn it into reality.
At Illinois, Caitlin has been involved in many societies on campus. She spent two years with the MechSE Advancement Student Committee (MASC) Board as a part of their alumni committee and was the publicity chair for ASME, writing the weekly update emails for the society. She also spent a semester on the SAE Baja team.
Currently, Caitlin is the technical president of Student Space Systems and leads a team tasked with creating a fluid delivery system for an experimental liquid propellant rocket engine. The team designs and tests these engines at Willard Airport. Testing these engines requires the team to have extensive knowledge on propulsion and structural aspects of engineering, including thermodynamics, fluid flow, heat transfer, and material science. They work with the local FBI and Engineering Safety Dean of the University to ensure they follow all safety procedures, along with local, state, and federal laws regarding chemicals and testing.
Caitlin is also the founder of an art community on campus that focuses on creating a low stress, friendly environment to work on art. While it isn’t an official RSO, Caitlin enjoys meeting new artists on campus and spending time with them while working on their artistic hobbies.
While Caitlin enjoys her time at the university, just being on campus can be a challenge for her sometimes. Caitlin has CVID – combined variable immune deficiency – a chronic illness which makes the body unable to properly defend itself against infections. Even though it’s very easy for her to develop severe health issues that could prevent her from attending class, she only sees it as a challenge she needs to overcome and has become a small social activist for people with chronic illnesses.
“When I was younger, they told me I pretty much shouldn’t go to college. I looked at them, thought about it, and said ‘No, I think I’m going to go for the hardest degree I can.’”
After graduation, Caitlin hopes to pursue either an MBA or a law degree with the intention of exploring the business and management side of engineering. She’s always been enticed by the idea of a hands-on approach to customer interfacing, writing multimillion-dollar contracts, and directing the path of a company.