Dryden and CSU-Fresno agreed that students would design a test stand and a major component during the semester. First row, from left, are Ronalynn Ramos, Shiamaa Aboutaleb, Robert Bernstein, Deleena Noble, Jeigh Shelley and Jonathan Barraclough. Second row, from left, are Ken Santarelli, Edgar Felix, Kyle Brunaeu, Aric Warner, Erik Waite, Jacob Billeter, Tim Risch and Kurt Kloesel. (NASA Photo / Tom Tschida)
› View Larger Image Dryden tasked a group of college students from Lancaster with developing a plan for a test fixture for propeller and fan-driven components. A potential use for the fixture is in research on X-48 vehicle engines.
Dryden has a number of ties to the California State University-Fresno engineering program. In addition to funding the development of the plan as well as a key fixture component, a Dryden employee was taking a CSU-Fresno engineering course and the effort provided a way for him not only to incorporate the test project into his class but also allowed him to contribute to a NASA goal of supporting science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, education.
Aric Warner, a Dryden employee who previously worked in the machine shop, completed his engineering degree with the test fixture project. He was assigned as chief engineer for the project, which is not usually permitted, but because of his experience and knowledge, an exception was made. The class began with two teams working on the problem, but since the teams produced many of the same design ideas, it was decided to combine the teams' ideas into a single design.
It was Warner's talk with Dryden engineer Kurt Kloesel and X-48 project manager Tim Risch that provided the project's genesis. It turned out that Dryden needed a stand for testing propeller and fan-driven components, and some funding existed for having students come up with ideas for the design and building a key subsystem before the end of the semester. Risch, Kloesel and Dryden researcher Jonathan Barraclough worked together on the details to make it happen.
"The best part, for me, is that this class is the first time in college where I have experienced a realistic project," Warner said. "This work means something. Since I have experience in fabrication and projects at Dryden, this was beneficial because it focused on realistic design work and building a critical subsystem for a project."
Course instructor Jeigh Shelley, who is currently on loan to CSU from the Air Force Research Laboratory at Edwards Air Force Base, said many of her students find jobs based on their class experiences. She also is helping to transition the engineering program from CSU-Fresno to an even more ambitious CSU-Long Beach program that is getting under way. Classes begin in the fall.
Partnering with area community colleges, the program takes students who have completed their sophomore years and are ready for junior- and senior-level engineering courses, Shelley said. The class requires them to work on a project, such as the test fixture, for a practical look at how to apply what they have learned.
"The class saw this project all the way through to testing, and saw the result of what they made. It is a confidence-building experience. There are no easy answers, or answers in the back of the book. They had to struggle and go through the design process and deliver the intangibles, such as giving the customer what he wanted.
"This group demonstrated all of the aspects of the process and listened to the customer, and I have confidence recommending any one of them for a job," Shelley said.
Risch commissioned the work.
"I think the students did an excellent job," he said. "Their innovation and design met the requirements. Students bring fresh and innovative ways of looking at problems - idea generation and creativity in solving problems is what students offer."
A key component of the engineering program is developing local talent for the needs of the Antelope Valley aerospace community. For that reason, a large number of graduates from the engineering program find work in the field, Shelley said.
Deleena Noble, who lives in the Antelope Valley, hopes that's how this class ends - with finding a job.
Noble has made the most of opportunities. She is graduating from this program with an engineering degree and has participated in NASA student summer programs for the past two years.
"The internships at NASA and this program gave me experience that should help me find work after graduation. The experiences give me the confidence that I can succeed in aerospace engineering, or, hopefully, space-related work," she said.
Information on the program is available at http://www.ccpe.csulb.edu/splash/engineering/, or from the CSU-LB College of Continuing Professional Education customer service center, 800-963-2250.