VHCC Engineering Student Heading to MIT

Richard Moyer joins Engineering Instructor Tom Tidwell in telling young students about the engineering profession during a recent career fair.
Richard Moyer joins Engineering Instructor Tom Tidwell in telling young students about the engineering profession during Educational Talent Search’s recent Career Carnival.

He’s often seen walking across the VHCC campus barefoot, sometimes giving the impression that he takes a laidback approach to college life. That is until Richard Moyer pulls a stack of carefully solved differential equations from his backpack and casually mentions his recent acceptance to Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s engineering program.

He’s planning a visit to the MIT campus sometime in mid-April and will become one of about 3,000 students in the nation’s top engineering program in September. Until then, he’s committed to finishing his associate’s degree – and grateful for his sister’s offer to milk the cows on their 70-acre farm each morning so he can concentrate on academics.

Richard’s education has taken a different path than most. When his family purchased a farm in rural Russell County about six years ago, he took some time off from his homeschool routine to help with major constructions projects, gardening, and tending to the animals. While preforming routine agricultural tasks, he discovered a natural inclination for developing methods to make farm life easier.

“I created a method for cleaning pepper seed that just involves a plastic bucket, a hose and water,” he said. “It’s a new method for cleaning the seed. A lot of people on farms are extremely creative about coming up with new methods to do something.”

His talent for creating things led to an interest in engineering. When he discovered that VHCC offers a two-year engineering program, he decided to enroll. First, however, he needed to catch up on the school work he had missed while working on the farm.

So he buckled down between February and August of 2013, teaching himself the advanced math skills he needed to become an engineering student. Then he drove to VHCC, took the Placement Test, and enrolled in his first semester of classes. Calculus with Analytical Geometry and Linear Algebra kept him busy that first semester, then he moved on to Intro to Engineering and Engineering Mechanics.

His recent acceptance to MIT is proof that Richard has done well at VHCC. He’s juggled heavy class loads each semester, sneaking just enough time away from his books to take the SAT subject tests required by the nation’s top universities. And when it came time to apply to colleges, he choose just two – MIT and Virginia Tech.

When Pi Day – an event that celebrates the mathematical constant pi – arrived, Richard logged on to the MIT website for a decision about his future. His mother was with him, he said, and was “somewhat excited” to learn he’d been accepted.

Somewhat excited? Well, Richard explained, his parents are high achievers themselves. His father holds a Ph.D. in biochemistry and his mother has a master’s degree in nuclear engineering. Apparently they’ve always expected Richard to do well.

There’s no doubt Richard will do well at MIT, but he admits he’s a little worried about the work required to keep pace in a sea of engineering students who love equations every bit as much as he does.

“The workload is going to be interesting,” he said. “I’m ready for the challenge.”