DOWAGIAC, Mich. — Southwestern Michigan College student Ethan Pawelski, of Cassopolis, Michigan, earned a $2,500 scholarship as national Student Developer Champion for software development at the League for Innovation in the Community College’s conference in National Harbor, Maryland.
National Harbor sits along the Potomac River just south of Washington, D.C., so Pawelski and Christine Stiles, the SMC instructor who nominated him, were also able to visit the Smithsonian Institution, the world’s largest museum and research complex, with 19 museums.
“Ethan is intelligent, ambitious, driven and extremely creative. He can ‘MacGyver’ all sorts of innovative contraptions and goes above and beyond to exceed my expectations,” Stiles said.
For example, Pawelski rigged a shopping list bar code program on his phone to track pantry provisions running low that he needs to replenish. Through SMC’s IT Club he helped build a Raspberry Pi photo booth for the Student Activity Center.
Pawelski, from rural Cassopolis and a Berrien Springs Virtual Academy graduate, was recognized for his demonstrated passion for technology and commitment to his education and community. He is graduating May 5 from SMC’s Application Development program with his Associate in Applied Science degree and plans to continue in app development to a Computer Information Systems bachelor’s degree through Ferris State University. He has volunteered to tutor fellow students in app development while maintaining a 4.0 GPA.
“It was a shock to get it. I couldn’t believe it until we got the plane tickets,” Pawelski said. “There had to be 2,000 people there. It was interesting seeing up-and-coming technologies for teaching app development. I would probably enjoy that, but I’m interning right now at a development company in Dowagiac.” That company is Dorel Industries, the Canadian conglomerate which owns Ameriwood and designs and manufactures juvenile products, bicycles and home furnishings.
“I know a lot of my peers like gaming,” Pawelski said, “but I enjoy writing software because I like solving problems. One of my hobbies is designing escape rooms. As far back as I can remember I was doing computer stuff. There’s a story told about me that when I was 6 or 7, somebody was trying to figure out how to put a projector on the screen and I said, ‘Press the source button.’ I took apart everything with screws to see how the circuitry worked.”
Pawelski also knows the eastern seaboard from touring after high school with the South Carolina-based Academy of Arts Christian drama teams established in 1971.
“We’d set up at a school Monday and teach them how to put on a play if they didn’t have the resources. We’d bring lights, stage equipment and a sound system. The kids performed at the end of the week, then we’d pack up and move to the next school. I did the technology portion. When I was home-schooled, they set up in a church and did it for us,” Pawelski said. “We went to about 18 schools from New York to Florida.”
The League for Innovation in the Community College is an international non-profit organization with a mission to cultivate innovation in the community college environment.
Founded in 1968, the League is celebrating its 50th anniversary.
Pawelski accepted his plaque from Terry O’Banion, Senior League Fellow and League President Emeritus, in whose name awards are given annually.