From Tinker Toys to Nuclear Reactors to Fiber Optics: Korey Hite ‘08 Pursues Passion for Mechanical Engineering

Korey Hite has always enjoyed taking things apart to see how they work. As a young child he once unscrewed the timer from his family’s game of Scattergories to examine the springs and gears inside. His investigations became increasingly sophisticated as he grew older. An aficionado of Tinker Toys, Legos, Erector sets, and the video game Rollercoaster Tycoon, Hite became adept at not only disassembling objects and understanding their functionality, but improving on their design. So it was no surprise when, upon completing a lengthy interest inventory questionnaire in high school, Hite’s top two best career matches were semi-truck driver and mechanical engineer.

“After reading the descriptions and doing more research, I realized what I already loved to do is exactly what mechanical engineers do!” said Hite.

Korey Hite '08
Korey Hite ’08

While working toward his undergraduate degree in this field, Hite spent summers interning with Progress Energy, Honeywell, and John Deere. However, he rounded out his collegiate experience by participating in University Honors Program-sponsored trips, and leadership development workshops with both Park Scholarships and NC State’s Center for Student Leadership, Ethics and Public Service (CSLEPS). Hite appreciated his driven classmates and the diversity of the NC State community compared to his hometown of Lecanto, Fla.

When asked what advice he would offer to current Park Scholars, Hite emphasized the importance of combining studies, fun, and periodic reassessment of one’s aspirations.

“Push yourself to do things out of your comfort zone,” Hite added. “Have difficult discussions about topics that might be uncomfortable. And give back! It’s easy to focus on what you have to do to get from point A to B, but there are many folks out there that are less fortunate, and serving others is extremely rewarding.”

Upon graduating from NC State, Hite was eager to get to work – but he also wanted to earn a master’s degree. To meet both goals simultaneously, he opted to join General Electric (GE) Hitachi Nuclear Energy and its highly regarded Edison Engineering Development Program. The program is designed to instill in its participants sound engineering principles while they pursue different engineering positions on a rotational basis. Most participants then complete an Advanced Courses in Engineering (ACE) program to finish a master’s degree while working full-time.

“The coursework was challenging to do with a full-time job,” Hite said. “I claim I had a quarter-life-crisis during that time! It was worth it in the end, though.”

Korey Hite ‘08 skydiving
Korey Hite ‘08 skydiving over Louisburg, N.C.

Rather than rest on his laurels after completing his master’s in mechanical engineering from Georgia Tech, Hite studied for an additional six months, sat for an exam, and obtained his Professional Engineering license.

During his eight years with GE, Hite’s responsibilities ran the gamut from solving manufacturing issues, to doing root cause analyses, to design. He particularly enjoyed the years he spent as a stress analysis engineer, supporting repairs and modifications to operating nuclear power plants. The installation of new hardware often demanded that he conduct or verify analyses under tight time constraints.

“Nuclear power is the cleanest and safest energy source per gigawatt and is a necessary part of our energy future from an environmental point of view,” said Hite. “Nuclear plants have a lot of phenomena to consider: fluid flow, temperature differentials, vibrations, neutron flux, etc. This makes the analyses challenging and fun.”

Earlier this year, Hite decided to broaden his professional experience by transitioning to a new company and a new industry. Now at Corning Incorporated, he is performing design and analysis for various engineering projects related to fiber optics and cables. He enjoys being part of a talented team, and working on shorter lifecycle mechanical designs with greater freedom and over a larger range of projects.

Korey Hite '08 (back row, center) with Park classmates Albert Blackmon, Claire Shigekawa Rennhack, Sabina (Ferhatovic) Bharwani, Nabila Rouf, Peter Landis, and Susanna (Rankin) Sawyer in Rocky Mountain National Park during their senior retreat – Fall 2007
Korey Hite ’08 (back row, center) with Park classmates Albert Blackmon, Claire Shigekawa Rennhack, Sabina (Ferhatovic) Bharwani, Nabila Rouf, Peter Landis, and Susanna (Rankin) Sawyer in Rocky Mountain National Park during their senior retreat – Fall 2007

Outside of work, Wilmington, N.C.-based Hite spends time kayaking, cycling, running, and playing volleyball, tennis, and board games. While he no longer dismantles his board games’ timers, he still can’t resist a good tinkering opportunity. Hite created a security system for his home, designing and 3D-printing the housings for the sensors, and wrote his own Android app to control it. He also purchased an old Mercedes-Benz, converted it to run on used vegetable oil, and recently sold it.

“I recognize I wouldn’t be where I am if it weren’t for the Park Scholarships program,” said Hite, who has served on the Park Selection Committee for several years, and joined the Class of 2015 on its senior retreat to offer an alumnus’ perspective. “The program paid for my schooling – an obvious perk – but even more, it really developed me as a person. I appreciate people like Roy Park who see value in supporting good causes, such as education. I like giving back financially and with my time for these reasons. Although it is a scholarship, I view it more as a loan and I hope my involvement will help future students to succeed. I encourage other alumni to give back as well.”

posted 2016.06.30