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Keleigh Britt is transforming her love of racing into a mechanical engineering degree.

Keleigh Britt has deep-rooted passions for engineering and dance, two areas she can embrace at ECU.

Britt knew she wanted to attend school in North Carolina and decided that ECU was just right for her after she familiarized herself with the engineering program offerings and the ECU Dance Team.

“(Dance) wasn’t my main concern because school comes first, but since they had it, there’s another plus with this great program and feeling I already have here,” said Britt.

Determined to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering and indulge her love of dance, Britt wanted to enjoy both during her time at ECU. Britt was advised to just pick one, but she knew what she was capable of accomplishing.

“I’m not going to be able to dance the rest of my life, but I’m going to be able to be an engineer the rest of my life,” said Britt. “I talked to my advisor and she said I’m going to have to take some credits over the summer and going to have a harder work load than others…but I said ‘I want to do it.’”

Immediately she got involved with organizations on campus that pertained to her major, like Engineering Ambassadors, where she could connect with other engineering students. “I met a senior named Betsy, who is now able to tutor me and make sure that I’m on the right path to graduate,” said Britt. “ I never thought I would find a mentor in something like that.”

Balancing her schoolwork, volunteering and involvement in student organizations can be difficult in addition to being a member of the ECU Dance Team. “It’s a big time commitment. It’s not impossible, but it’s a big time commitment,” said Britt.

Britt’s interest and drive began at an early age. While at her family’s racing track, she wanted to race and drive the cars, but she was not allowed. She decided she would explore everything behind the scenes. Her curiosity about how the cars worked inspired her to learn about the mechanics involved.

“I would do different things with the fuel filters and the carburetors and engines and just kind of looking at how things worked,” she said.

Her interest in dance began early, too. Britt began to dance competitively at the age of 7. She continued to dance competitively for ECU at National Dance Alliance and at ECU football, basketball and baseball games. She said this experience is indescribable.

“I continue to dance today because it is something I love to do,” said Britt. “When I go to practice it is like an escape for me to stop thinking about school work for a few hours.”

As Britt continues her education at ECU, she will pursue research opportunities to prepare for graduate studies in biomechanical engineering. Although cars initially brought Britt to mechanical engineering, she also has an interest in working with prosthetics to help others enhance their mobility.

“I think prosthetics is so cool and rewarding individually,” she said.

What about racing got you interested in engineering?
My parents owned a racetrack in Manassas, Va. They bought that when I was seven years old. Ever since then I spent every single weekend out at this racetrack, working with merchandise or the registration of drivers and getting to know the employees. Once I got to know all the drivers – and some of them were my age – as I got older, I wanted to be a part of what they did. I said “Dad, can I race?” and he said no. So I was behind the scenes looking at everything when the guys were working on their cars before the race starts.

How are cars related to engineering?
Engineering is the mechanics of how things work, and that means anything with a motor or anything from a car to a coffee maker. It’s about looking at how things work.

Why did you choose ECU?
I am from Virginia, but I really liked North Carolina a lot. I liked everything about it. So that sparked my interest and I decided I wanted to apply to schools in the South. I ended up coming to ECU and I felt so welcomed. It being such a big school and having such a big spirit fan base sparked my interest as well because I wanted to be on the dance team. The campus feels smaller for the population it is and I really like that. It doesn’t take 30 minutes to get across campus. It takes 15 minutes tops, maybe. I liked that.

What kind of volunteer work do you do?
I did a little bit of volunteering at the Boys and Girls Club in Winterville. The dance team goes to different high schools and middle schools. With my dance teammates, we’ve helped with Girl Scout clinics and I spoke at a Math Counts event, which teaches middle school students how important math is to everything and how it relates to science, engineering, teaching and business. I want to support the kids and what they do, to show them what I do and what I’m interested in.

Written by: Jamitress Bowden
Photography by: Cliff Hollis

"You should strive to be happy and the rest will fall into place."

- Keleigh Britt