MELBOURNE, FLA. — William Connor Fitzpatrick, the top student among his 456 peers at Melbourne High School who hopes to “help humanity expand into the cosmos” as an aerospace engineer, is Florida Tech’s 2022 Farmer Scholar.
Named for Phillip W. Farmer, the former chairman, president and chief executive officer of L3Harris Corp. and past chairman of the Florida Tech Board of Trustees, the 13-year-old Farmer Scholars program is the university’s most prestigious financial award.
The program provides a full, four-year scholarship annually to a Florida resident and high school graduate who is among the top 5 percent of his or her class and demonstrates exceptional academic achievement and outstanding personal character.
For Fitzpatrick, who prefers to be called by his middle name, the opportunity to study aerospace engineering represents the latest outlet for his lifelong fascination with both space and flight.
“As the son of an F-14 Naval Aviator, I witnessed how engineering could be used to push the limits of the feasible,” he said in his application materials. “As I have gotten older, my experiences in the classroom and through FIRST Robotics have reinforced my desire to become an aerospace engineer, and most importantly to me, Florida Tech is on the cutting edge of this field.”
Fitzpatrick was on his school’s robotics team when it was crowned Orlando Regional Champion in 2019. This year, Fitzpatrick was the team operations captain and robot driver as they won the Tallahassee Regional Championship, which qualified them for the World FRC Championships in Houston this past April.
With his father in the military, Fitzpatrick moved 10 times in 17 years, attending seven different schools in five states and two countries. Until high school, he never spent more than three years at the same place. Yet this experience is not something he shuns.
“I see this as an advantage. I do not see adversity as an excuse. I use it as motivation to fuel my academic success,” he said. “My transient life has exposed me to people, activities, art and opportunities that most people could only dream of. It has made me adventurous, as my world is a much smaller place than my peers, and rather than fear new experiences, I seek them out.”
Fitzpatrick is an explorer at heart, he said, thanks in part to his “transient upbringing.” That upbringing fuels his interest in looking beyond planet Earth.
“I chose to major in Aerospace Engineering because I want to be a part of the teams that help humanity to expand into the cosmos. It is thrilling to me to think that in my lifetime, we may have the opportunity to explore places where no life has explored
before,” he said. “It is my goal to be a part of the teams that develop the technology and systems that will help push human space exploration as far as possible, both in our solar system and beyond.”
According to his teachers at Mel High, Fitzpatrick has the intellect, curiosity, work ethic and vision to achieve his dream.
“He is the top performing, most capable, truly authentic student I have ever been blessed to work with,” said Jennifer Mason, coordinator for the school’s International Baccalaureate Diploma Program, in a letter of recommendation. She would later add, “I have never worked with a student who has the drive, mind, energy, and authenticity for living life that Connor has.”
Jennifer Mikenas, the International Baccalaureate math teacher at Mel High, had Fitzpatrick in her IB Precalculus course and as a guest student in another course. She said in her letter that while he excels in every aspect of his academics, he is “especially brilliant” in math.
“What is especially unique about Connor is his genuine love for the logic of mathematics and his remarkable ability to see seven steps ahead in his mind,” Mikenas said. “Connor is known for his creative, out-of-the-box approach to problem-solving, and his peers often need him to walk through his ideas step-by-step so that they can visualize what comes so naturally to him.”
Not surprisingly, Fitzpatrick was a math tutor for underclass students. He also found time to be a member of Mu Alpha Theta (the mathematics honor society for high school students), the National Honor Society, Quiz Bowl team and the Chess Club.
With the Aug. 22 start of the fall semester in sight, Fitzpatrick is eager to get rolling. The university’s location on the Space Coast will help him target leading aerospace companies for internships and more, and its array of cutting-edge technology and high-tech facilities beckon the young scholar. “I could not be more excited to become a Florida Tech Panther,” he said.