For River Castelonia ‘18, Failing Was Not an Option

by RikkiLynn ShieldsSocial Media Editor

The only true failure is one from which the individual is unable to recognize a valuable opportunity for growth. For River Castelonia ‘18, the practice of accepting failure and learning from the experience has resulted only in tremendous personal development. Castelonia transferred to Manhattan College in Fall 2014 from Siena College.

“[Coming to Manhattan College] was a great way to get integrated into a fabric of New York City. I was usually studying so my time was split mostly between the library or working on my 3D printer. I was constantly trying to learn about things outside of my major by chatting with people across campus and seeing what people were working on. Overall, I really enjoyed my undergrad experience and have made friends that I will keep with me forever.” Castelonia said.

While the experience Castelonia took away with him after leaving Manhattan, not every experience was that of ease.

“I faced quite a bit of adversity while getting through my undergrad. Engineering was tough. My most difficult subjects have always been science and math, however, those were the subjects I have always been the most passionate and excited by. In my undergrad, I had to retake Calculus III three times, Thermodynamics two times, Heat Transfer three times, and the list goes on; but with every semester that past I knew I was one step closer to my dream of being a mechanical engineer.”

It was because of Castelonia’s approach that he was able to focus on the unbounded potential of his development rather than dwell on current limitations.

“Many times, people get so caught up in fearing failure that they sometimes just change course because they don’t want to face judgement. If you are really passionate about something, even if the odds are stacked against you, you should still do it. Don’t give up when it gets hard because ultimately it’s not about the goal – it’s about building your character and resilience.”

During his time as an undergrad, Castelonia founded a non-profit organization called Havenlabs. Havenlabs is an organization run by a team of engineers working to improve the lives of our nation’s veterans. Havenlabs came about through the aspiration to help disabled veterans by donating custom 3D printed assistive devices, such as prosthetic limbs.

“[Havenlabs] started a few years ago with the idea that, by using 3D printing, we could help to provide an open-source solution to people that may not be able to afford high-end prosthetics on the market. 3D printing has so many benefits and the Havenlabs team saw this as something that could revolutionize the future of assistive devices.”

Since the start of Havenlabs in 2015, the team has developed two different devices for upper-limb amputees.

“These are fully 3D printable, and you download the STL files for the devices to 3D print for free right off of our website.”

While Havenlabs has already seen many successes, Castelonia emphasizes that there are many more to come in the near future.

“We teaming up with another small start-up based in New York called Blue Heart Hero, to help double up our efforts. Our devices, since we started, have been downloaded +1.3k times from people across the globe, which is really exciting. Our work is completely open-source so anyone has the ability to make changes and upload their version online, which we highly encourage!”

Since the start of Havenlabs, Castelonia was fortunate enough to have been a TEDX and MakerBot speaker, highlighting on both his achievements and failures both with Havenlabs and in his overall career.

Along with being a co-founder of Havenlabs, Castelonia also worked with Tesla Motors as a Product Specialist in New York City, and a Lean Manufacturing Intern in Fremont, California. Currently, Castelonia lives in New York and works full-time with Tesla on sales and logistics. Alongside his job with Tesla, Castelonia also enjoys creating music.

“I am working on some music as well, which I started while I was in California. I really like freestyle hip-hop and see it as a way of expressing myself that doesn’t involve science and numbers. I have quite a few tracks up so far and am excited about putting out some new music in the coming weeks. I’m also reading a textbook on liquid propellant rocket design – with the space race being re-energized it would be so cool to work on the BFR for SpaceX someday– that’s the ultimate goal!”

Despite the challenges that Castelonia faced during his time at Manhattan College, failure was not an option.

“What motivates me is remembering some of the things I have faced and overcome. I remember, growing up, there would be times where we didn’t have electricity in the house because we couldn’t afford it. Times were hard for my family growing up at points, but witnessing my parents push through that fuels me whenever my back is against the wall. I try to remember all that I’ve been through that’s gotten me to this point and all the people that have supported me to get here – I don’t plan on letting those people down. Remember your WHY, and when your WHY is about people other than yourself – your more likely to achieve your goal.”

Through challenges faced, Castelonia was able to turn his defeats to victories. With a positive mindset, he was able to summon the resilience needed to both help others and ultimately achieve his goals.

“As important as your classes are, most of your growing takes place outside of the classroom. These are the times to take risks and chances. These are the times to fail as fast as you possibly can and learn from it, because the faster you fail the quicker you can come to a solution. As a society we really look at failing and being a failure as the same thing – they’re not. You are only a failure when you give up on yourself. Trust your gut and have a lot of patience because truly great things take time.”