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Navy vet amasses multiple degrees at TCC

You might say Michael Humphrey-Sewell can’t get enough of Tidewater Community College.

The Navy veteran already holds his Associate of Science in Social Sciences and his Associate of Applied Science in Business Administration.

It’s a year later and he’s amassed two more associate degrees. He will graduate on Dec. 16 with associates in engineering and computer science. He’s also earned certifications in CompTIA A+ and Network +.

Humphrey-Sewell, 31, is already at work on his bachelor’s in computer engineering from Old Dominion University, but he’s not done with TCC just yet.  A cybersecurity certificate is also on his TCC bucket list.

“There are just so many useful classes you can take at TCC, and I really like that they’re so hands-on,” he said. “It’s a small environment where you can get to know your professors and they know you. They actually talk to you.”

Working with TCC’s Center for Military and Veterans Education, he has been able to use his GI Bill benefits to pay for his education. “It’s a good deal to come here for free and take classes I like,” he said.

Enjoying the Maker Space inside the Advanced Technology Center on the Virginia Beach Campus

Part of his transition after a nine-year career in the Navy involved developing new skills. He taught acoustic intelligence during his service and liked to tinker with computers. But it wasn’t until he came to TCC that he discovered how well three fields that he enjoys – engineering, business and computer programming – complement each other.

“I really needed to modernize my technology base,” he said. “Modernizing it makes me more marketable. This was a good transition for that. I’m looking to leverage all my old experience with my new.”

Humphrey-Sewell also serves as vice president of TCC’s coding club and secretary of Computers for Student Success. His team finished second at the recent Dominion Hackathon. He’s a regular in the Maker Space inside the Advanced Technology Center, where he’s built websites and his own password manager.

“There’s stuff for every experience level in here,” he said. “There’s 3D printing, circuit design penetration design, testing for robotics.”

In addition to his academics, Humphrey-Sewell is webmaster of the personalized tutoring and testing center Gruzone Education, where teaches computer fundamentals and math.

Eventually, the single dad plans to make a career as a software developer or security analyst.

The New Hampshire native, who landed at the college after shore duty stationed him in Virginia Beach, is grateful for the foundation he found at TCC.

Three years ago when he left the Navy, “I didn’t know what was out there,” he said. “I wouldn’t know about all the opportunities there are if I hadn’t come here.”

Engineering student will graduate from TCC with an associate and a prosthetic arm he designed

Tidewater Community College student AJ Bafetti initially wanted to challenge himself with an engineering project that involved 3-D design.

The end product, a prosthetic he refers to as “Light Arm,” is not only beneficial to him but inspiring to others.

Bafetti’s story, as told by WTKR reporter Margaret Cavanagh, went viral last week, picked up by news outlets that include CNN and CBS This Morning. The story appeared in local affiliates ranging from Miami and Nashville to Columbus, Ohio and Las Vegas. The Virginian-Pilot also featured him on April 19.

“I was surprised it went coast to coast,” said Bafetti, 22, also contacted by a radio talk show on WGN in Chicago. “It’s been pretty cool.”

Bafetti will finish the coursework for his Associate of Science in Engineering by the end of the summer and transfer to Old Dominion University this fall for his bachelor’s in mechanical engineering.

AJ Bafetti, Chris Gollogly
AJ Bafetti, left, designed his own prosthetic arm with the help of Chris Gollogly, president of TCC’s engineering club.

The Grassfield High School grad, born without a forearm, grew up a LEGO lover and wanted to turn his love of building into a career. Economics steered him toward TCC, where he has excelled and taken part in the VCCS-NASA “STEM in Flight” internship.

Bafetti got the idea to make his own prosthetic during his first semester here. He had only ever used a 3-D printer to make a phone holder before but had the confidence he could design his own limb after sharing concept sketches with Professor Edward Morris.

The TCC engineering professor encouraged him as did Paul Gordy, program head for the department who also heads the college’s Engineering Club. Bafetti received assistance from club president Chris Gollogly and the manufacturer AMTEK, which provided the materials, a plastic similar to LEGOs.

Bafetti tested several prototypes using the computer-assisted design software AutoCAD. To maximize efficiency, it’s important that that limb be lightweight, something he continues to perfect.

“Ideally it would be less than a pound,” he said.

Bafetti uses the arm now, which includes a grey hook in lieu of a hand. He plans to wear it during all waking hours once final design kinks are worked out.

While he calls it a “passion project,” Bafetti discovered by doing it that he wants to continue to help others by designing their prosthetic limbs. Working closely with faculty and peers at TCC, he said he learned collaborative skills that will help him in the professional world.

Margaret Cavanaugh, AJ Bafetti
Sharing his story with WTKR’s Margaret Cavanagh

“As engineers, we’re supposed to be problem-solvers,” Bafetti said. “That’s want I want to do.”