Ethan Dreissigacker ’13, TH’15, from Morrisville, Vermont, came to Dartmouth with a passion for biathlon and a fascination with engineering. He has spent the past several years focused on both, attending classes in the spring and fall and competing internationally in biathlon during winter terms. Ethan graduated in June with his BE from Thayer School of Engineering and is now training to qualify for the U.S. biathlon team. Ethan talked with the DCF about how his Dartmouth experience influenced his life, sport, and career choice.
A Family Tradition. My dad is an engineer and my mom has a master’s degree from Thayer. I was raised into it, and I’ve always loved the process of designing something, building it, and making it better.
Teaching = Learning. As a sophomore I became a teaching assistant in the machine shop at Thayer. The best way to learn something is to try to teach it to someone. Helping people go through the design process was the most powerful learning experience I’ve had here.
Mind Game. My skills in biathlon and engineering inform each other. Biathlon is essentially a mind game, and so is engineering. In both you take a very systematic approach to defining a problem, breaking it down, and then solving it. Especially for something like shooting, having that mindset and systematically approaching it is extremely valuable.
Combining Passions. One of the challenges of getting new people into biathlon is that they need a rifle that fits them. Most rifle stocks are custom made from wood, so they are very expensive—and are almost never a perfect fit. I’m designing a new kind of biathlon stock, where all of the grips and points of contact with the body are completely adjustable and interchangeable. The idea is that you can swap out the different parts—so one stock can be made to fit anyone.
Aha Moment. This spring, I did a freelance project through Thayer to create a crutch-testing machine for a medical company. It was a cool design challenge to conceptualize and build a machine that fulfilled specific design standards and continuously cycled half a million times to put the crutch foot through the correct loading conditions. It was fun—like putting together a puzzle or playing a complicated game. That project made me think, “This is it. This is what I want to do professionally.”