Aerospace Engineers Help Launch Senior Projects

February 15, 2015 | Rachel Wood

The Walla Walla University School of Engineering is collaborating with local and national companies to create opportunities for internships, senior projects and career paths for engineering students. Brian Roth, associate professor of engineering, and Ralph Stirling, project engineer, are two of the catalysts.

Roth and Stirling launched a partnership in 2012 with Leo Wilson, Jason Douglas and Michael Allen, aerospace engineers who volunteered to guide WWU engineering students on projects. Wilson is founder and president of Solution Engineering Inc., which develops vision-based navigation products for autonomous systems. Douglas is the founder and president of Latitude Engineering, the company that developed the Hybrid Quadrotor technology used by the students for their projects. Allen is a senior software engineer for CloudCap Technology, which specializes in state-of-the-art autopilot systems and gimbals.

During the 2012–2013 academic year, one project focused on aerial mapping for agriculture. Nathan Curry and Michael Kudla, 2013 mechanical engineering graduates, and Jonathan Anderson, 2013 computer engineering graduate, designed, built and flew a 1-foot wingspan autonomous airplane that photographed the land and created one giant picture from the images. This project was featured at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International 2013 trade show. Today, Kudla is a practicing mechanical engineer, Curry designs UAVs as part of his graduate work at the University of Colorado Boulder, and Anderson is a software developer for General Atomics Aeronautical Systems.

During the 2013–2014 academic year, Andrew Bylard, a 2014 mechanical and electrical engineering graduate, worked with Brian Clark, a 2014 electrical engineering graduate, on quadcopter autopilot augmentation. Bylard investigated an adaptive control algorithm, while Clark developed an optical position hold. Clark now works on aerospace projects as a graduate student at University of California, Riverside. Bylard is pursuing a doctorate in aeronautical engineering from Stanford University. Two mechanical engineering juniors, Bryce Hill and Michael Slusser, also joined the project. Hill used the experience to obtain a 2014 summer internship with NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

Hill and Slusser now lead the 2014–2015 team. They are joined by Travis Crumley and Dane Purkeypile, two computer engineering seniors. The team’s objective is to develop a long-endurance hybrid quadcopter. The team has actively recruited underclassmen, and each senior is responsible for mentoring two. The team includes juniors Ashley Wragg, Garrett Wilson, Ian Cooke, Zachary Arnott, and Jeremy Gaines; sophomores Jeremy Rood and Victor Wang; and freshman Korollos Abdelmalak. The expanded team gives the more junior students an opportunity to apply their coursework, and it gives the seniors great experience in mentoring more junior teammates.

Rachel Wood, WWU senior business major