Andrew Crawford
Andrew Crawford

Hometown:  Kalispell, Montana
Major:  Mechanical Engineering, Aerospace minor

Many students who attend college do so right out of high school; it is the commonly accepted progression. And then there is Andrew Crawford, who is not your typical engineering student. 

Snowboarder, violinist, non-traditional student

Before coming to Montana State University, Andrew spent 10 years as a professional snowboarder and even some time as a symphony violinist. Andrew is a student who proves that there is no set timeline for following your dreams, as long you’re willing to put in the necessary effort.

Andrew is a non-traditional student from Kalispell, Mont., majoring in Mechanical Engineering.  As a self-described “redhead with a lot of energy”, he has always been busy, because for him there is always something more to learn.

Professional extreme athlete, world traveler

After giving his high school graduation speech, he moved to Oregon to play in the symphony and attend college in the evenings, while continuing to snowboard when he had the chance, and even being featured in snowboarding magazines. Then he got the offer, “Would you like to become a professional snowboarder and start competing around the world?” That was an opportunity that he couldn’t turn down.

“I spent the next ten years competing in the X Games, World Cups, and filming for feature snowboard films and video games with the likes of Shaun White. I had a line of signature pro-model boards with Rossignol, as well as signature helmets with Pro-Tec, and was an avid spokesman for safety and progression within the sport. I was featured in Sports Illustrated, X-Box video games, National Geographic magazine, and frequently spoke at schools on the importance and correlation of school and professional sports.

Ten years, 65 countries, and more than 35 broken bones later, Andrew wanted more. “I was craving the intellectual stimulation that accompanies school, and wanted to pursue my dream of becoming an engineer and working for NASA.” Although the two worlds are completely different, he now loves going to school. “My focus is sharper, I know the goals that I want, and I can focus on what’s important.”

Academic focus leads to NASA's JPL

Andrew Crawford
Andrew Crawford as a professional snowboarder

Andrew’s focus and dedication helped him land mechanical engineering internships at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in 2011 and 2012, and he was recently accepted into the prestigious NASA Aeronautics Academy at NASA Ames Research Center for 2014, where he was one of nine chosen from 900 applicants. (To see more about his work at JPL, check out the educational blog that he started here.)

After college, Andrew hopes to continue working with NASA; he’s already been chosen to speak in Beijing, China, at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) about the importance of Human Space Exploration. (Check out the video here.)

Inspiring kids

He also hopes to continue to share his knowledge with future generations because education has always played a big role in his life, “I just want kids to know that if someone from small-town Montana can do it, so can they.”

For now, Andrew’s words of wisdom:  “Find a group, internship, or club that complements your hobbies and engineering” because as a mentor once told him, “’The more hobbies you have that are related to engineering, the better engineer you will be.’”