SA’s new source of power
McMahon’s precision is pivotal to keeping SA stable
Published: Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, October 29, 2013 23:10
A small kinetic sculpture sits on the desk in Student Association President Sam McMahon’s office.
There’s an electromagnet in the base that runs on a 9-volt battery. There are two rings above the base that spin in a spherical motion. Without the magnet, it is impossible for the sculpture to move.
When oscillating, the model swings like a pendulum back and forth. The electromagnet is the essential piece of the contraption.
It’s a mirror image of McMahon’s persona.
On Oct. 10, McMahon, a senior aerospace engineering major, was elected SA president – taking over at a vital time. But much like the kinetic sculpture, his style is all about precision.
His office is still in transition, similar to SA. Two items stand out within the four white walls: a whiteboard that hangs with the outline of a calendar color coordinated in expo marker – red for personal tasks, brown for schoolwork and blue for anything relating to SA.
“I think he’s just [wired] that way,” said SA Vice President Lyle Selsky. “With aerospace engineering, if you’re off by a millimeter, the plane could shatter. That’s just who he is and I’m glad we brought someone like that into SA because it does promote accountability and efficiency.”
And the kinetic sculpture on his desk acts as a contrast between his engineering classes and running the SA.
It distracts you from dialogue and helps you unwind, according to Selsky.
“It’s fantastic,” Selsky said. “You would think people wouldn’t pay attention to it but it’s like driving a car; you’re fully focused on the road but it helps you unwind. Your mind is not 100 percent focused on what you are thinking, so whatever comes up is just going to come out. It leads to more honest and open conversation.”
At around the age of 2, McMahon began to show signs of his meticulousness and concentration.
While playing with his Lego blocks, his father Doug McMahon noticed how focused McMahon was on building sculptures.
“Both of his grandfathers were, ironically, engineers,” Doug said. “He was always driven to the mechanical side of things. He was riding and operating a tractor at a young age and mechanically inclined that way.”
Growing up, McMahon was drawn to space and wanted to pursue a future as a pilot. But he learned there were two ways that he could become one.
He could take the military route or attend a school that offered a commercial pilot program. But he wanted more than just experience and a degree in commercial piloting; he wanted something technical.
“I kind of wanted to make sure I had a solid background,” McMahon said. “I found out that I really liked talking to people and managing people.”
For six months, McMahon interned at PCC Airfoils, LCC in Cleveland, Ohio. The company focuses on manufacturing complex and highly technical investment castings for turbine engines that are used in military jet engines, commercial jet engines, helicopters and industrial gas turbines.
From July 2012 to January 2013, he worked in process engineering with PCC alongside other engineers, machine operators and clients.
It was there he learned what he wanted to do: He wants to be a leader.
“I like doing the people side of things a lot more than I like doing the technical side of things,” McMahon said. “I think that’s good insight into what I want to do.”
Prior to his internship in Cleveland, his junior year at UB, McMahon was approached by a group of friends who were involved in the United Nations Association Student Alliance and asked if he could fill in on a conference trip to Toronto.
McMahon accepted the offer and attended the conference.
“It was kind of a cool experience,” McMahon said. “I went to another conference in Rhode Island and that was the first step in the door to what the Student Association was and everything.”
When he returned from Cleveland, he heard about a front desk opening at SA. He applied for it and got the position.
It was there McMahon learned the basic principles of SA. And the following summer, he was hired as the office manager.
“They usually hire just one or two people over the summer to help around the office,” McMahon said. “I knew that if I could seal up a job … [it would be] the perfect thing to have as a summer job. And this summer, it took off from there.”
Throughout his time at SA, McMahon has earned a reputation around the office as a person who has great work ethic and always knows what’s going on.
Being an aerospace engineering major, his time management skills stand out among all things.
He never misses appointments and is a “man of his word,” according to SA Treasurer Siddhant Chhabria
“A lot of people say they are going to do [things],” Chhabria said. “He’s showing [the student body] he’s not only saying it.”
The main focus of McMahon’s platform involved utilizing the $94.75 student activity fee to its fullest potential.
His first plan was to offer a holiday bus service that will provide students with transportation to and from the airport on select days during the holiday break.
Within his first week as president, the shuttle service was approved. Student Life released the schedule for Thanksgiving break on Oct. 22.