Sometimes, 24 hours just isn’t enough time in a day. And no one wishes for more hours than Ben Lammers and Chanin Scott. Both play for Georgia Tech’s Division I basketball teams, and both are enrolled in the Institute’s rigorous engineering program. They pride themselves on getting up for practice at five in the morning, taking a full schedule of engineering classes, and sometimes finding a little time to be a normal college student in between. When they finish at Tech, their legacies on the court and in the classroom will speak for themselves.
Lammers masters balancing act of basketball and engineering
Bleary-eyed but determined, Ben Lammers makes his way to the Zelnak Basketball Center in the early hours of the morning after a full night of toiling away on a difficult project. Basketball practice will be an entirely different kind of work, but hopefully the echo of the ball on the court and demanding drills will provide a kind of soothing and distracting relief.
This scene is not an uncommon occurrence for Lammers, who shoulders the rare responsibility of balancing the course load of a Georgia Tech mechanical engineering undergraduate with a position as center on the Georgia Tech men’s basketball team—in fact, he is the only engineer on the team.
Dealing with such a demanding and difficult schedule is no easy task, but doing something he loves makes up for the struggle. Basketball and working with machines are his passions. Lammers says that he enjoys the hands-on aspects of engineering the most.
“Ever since I was little, I have always enjoyed tinkering – taking stuff apart and seeing how it works,” said Lammers. “I enjoy being able to control the little things that make a bigger system work.”
While summer might be a welcome respite from learning for less dedicated students, many athletes at Georgia Tech take classes or research while they continue rigorous training sessions.
Summer research gives Lammers the opportunity to dive into his work. Last summer, he worked in the Non-Destructive Evaluation Laboratory under Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Laurence Jacobs.
“Going into it, I didn’t know exactly what to expect,” said Lammers. “I had never done research before, so I wasn’t sure if I was just going to be in the library reading books, but I have really enjoyed that it’s really hands-on. I am able to problem solve, which I very much enjoy.”
Lammers, out of the limelight of his basketball stardom, seems perfectly content to be hidden away in a windowless lab. But it’s an entirely different scene on the court, where all eyes are on him.
Six foot, 10 inch frame aside, he played extremely well in the 2016/2017 basketball season after quietly improving during his first few years on the team. Lammers says that he is excited to enter his senior year and continue to enhance his game. He has worked on honing his academic abilities as well and sees clear-cut parallels between his two passions.
“Both require consistent, hard work,” said Lammers. “Basketball might be more physical — you have to constantly work out and shoot — but in classes you also have to put in the work, do the homework and make sure you’re actually studying to keep your skills sharp.”
Hard work and problem-solving skills have helped Lammers in a myriad of ways during his time at Tech. From defense drills to research to limited free time, managing a busy schedule has been the biggest test of those skills.
Lammers might have had an unusual college experience, but the challenges of being an engineering student are some that he shares with the thousands of classmates he has at Tech. They have prepared him for what comes next after graduation, and Lammers is very excited for it.
“My ideal future would be to play basketball professionally for as long as I am able to, and once that’s done, get a job in engineering,” said Lammers. “Obviously you can’t play basketball forever, and having engineering as a fallback isn’t too bad.”
Most would agree that a career in engineering certainly isn’t too bad at all.
Scott prepares for obstacles to come
In middle school, a teacher told Chanin Scott that she had the mind of an engineer. Once that seed of inspiration was planted, there was no going back; Scott was determined to be an engineer. So far, that teacher’s insightful observation has proven to be true every step of the way.
Scott enjoys challenging herself, which might be why she decided to pursue both industrial engineering and basketball upon entering Tech, rather than choosing between them. As a current sophomore, Chanin plays forward and small forward on the women’s basketball team.
“The role of basketball in my college experience is definitely helping me form a tough mentality,” said Scott. “Basketball here is definitely challenging, and being able to do that while being an engineer feels very empowering to me. It just really boosts my confidence and lets me know that I can get through anything.”
Like any good athlete (and any good engineer, for that matter), Scott is fiercely competitive. Bent on being the smartest, strongest and best, she prides herself on making it to class after an early workout when other students can’t even manage to roll out of bed.
Scott thrives when she has an obstacle to conquer. She says that her most memorable class at Georgia Tech so far is calculus, simply because it was challenging and fun to overcome. She enjoys making herself better both academically and athletically, and knows that improvement takes a lot of hard work.
“Just practice alone isn't enough,” said Scott. “There are a lot of things that you have to do behind the scenes. Not only improving your skills, but making sure that you're taking care of your health and body.”
Scott has also discovered, as have most mature and self-aware individuals, that she needs the support of other people in order to have a successful experience at Georgia Tech. She has fond memories with her teammates of beating the University of Georgia in a high-stakes game, helping each other with homework, and simply enjoying their rare downtime by playing some board games.
A few people in particular have stood out to Scott as role models, especially women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). Scott models her attitude after these admirable women who have come before her and served as encouragement and inspiration. Specifically, Scott remembers a former teammate who lead by example.
“No matter what basketball threw at her, no matter what school threw at her, she finished everything and gave it her best effort,” said Scott. “She told me that it's going to get tough, but that I have to keep going.”
Personal relationships like these are what Scott really enjoys, and she hopes to find a job with her industrial engineering degree that will allow her to engage with people and bring her engineering knowledge to a large audience. Scott has decided not to pursue a professional career in basketball after she graduates.
She might leave basketball behind when she finishes at Tech, but she will certainly not forget all she learned about what it feels like to struggle, work hard and victoriously succeed.