Rotary Scholar: Establish a plan, but smell the daisies along the way

Published 10:34 am Friday, May 12, 2023

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By Nikki O’Brien

Davie Community Foundation

When Aubrey Apperson graduated from Davie County Early College in 2012, electrical engineering was the path he had chosen.

He received the Rotary Club of Mocksville Scholarship and attended NC State University.

“College was expensive.  The stress of suddenly accumulating thousands of dollars of debt, per semester; the worry of ‘I need to get out of here, so I can pay this thing off (if I go); I don’t know how to put a price on that mental stress.  The scholarships I received lessened this burden and allowed me to focus on getting in and getting out.”

Apperson graduated with two bachelor’s degrees in physics (minor in math), and electrical engineering (concentration in nanotechnology). He is in the semiconductor field but started as a process development engineer on LED’s for Cree in Durham.

Apperson is a reliability engineer for Qorvo in Greensboro, which deals with Wi-Fi and cellular chips.

With all of this information, what does Aubrey “do” all day?

“In LEDs, I sat between scientists and the production facility: my job was to scale up, test, then release new processes. That meant building tools, training operators, then later transferring from that process to production.

“Now, I build and maintain reliability test and characterization equipment; as well as design, build, and program tools as needed.  In this role, I work to help ‘keep the train on the tracks’ – so to speak – to help make sure we ship reliable products.  I also work with scientists, building new characterization tools and modifying existing ones, to give us the capability of testing the next generation devices. In both cases, I’ve focused on tool and process development – be it building new tools for a new technology that scientists have gotten to work a few times, or building new tooling so we can perform reliability testing for the latest chips.

“Right now, I’m enjoying learning about the intricacies of certain semiconductor power amplifiers, and what the next generation of devices might look like.  With the hope of being able to contribute to the field.”

What important lessons did he learn along the way? “It’s OK to ask for help. I took a year break between high school Calculus 1 and college Calculus 2.A very rough first test convinced me to attend math tutoring. A few years later, I had a minor in math. Take advantage of the tools offered (small group tutoring sessions).  They’re there to help.

“My focus was always on the next thing in the plan.’ Gotta get a degree to get a good job, need a good job to afford a good house – a spouse after that. It’s OK to slow down and smell the daisies, I’m (still) learning.  We only get one run through of this life, don’t wish it all away.

“It’s OK to be unsure of what you want to do as a career – it’s a big decision, but you aren’t locked in forever.  Take a semester or two in college to try some introductory classes, pick something, and then just stick with it. Employers mainly want to see you can start and finish something.  More importantly, this will prove to yourself you can do anything you put your mind to.”

Apperson is commuting to Greensboro while residing in Davie. In his spare time, he is renovating his great-frandfather’s farmhouse in Forsyth and actively involved in his church. Prior to COVID, he improved and implemented a new audio-visual system for the sanctuary and recently completed designing a mobile camera with streaming capabilities.

Apperson also knows where credit is due.

“I’d like to thank all the educators that allowed me to succeed. My story is as much yours as it is mine – yours, maybe more-so.  The bus drivers, cafeteria staff, coaches, office staff, family, friends, and church too; through elementary, middle, high, and college – all those conversations, all the words of encouragement, even the corrections when needed.  I can’t help but look back with fondness, and just say thank you.”