New Program Director Takes Helm of Antelope Valley Engineering Program

Access to jobs and internships at top aerospace organizations is one of the CSULB Antelope Valley Engineering Program’s biggest draws for students. So when he took over as the program’s director, one of the first things Dr. Aubrey Priest did was check how those jobs and internships were faring during the pandemic.

“I’m pleased to note that our industry partners have informed us that they still have a tremendous need to hire engineers right now during this pandemic,” said Priest, who joined AVEP in mid-July. “The desire to hire still exists, but students may be placed in remote positions or on-site where they have to wear personal protective equipment.”

In Priest’s view, proximity to the aerospace industry is one of the chief benefits of the program, which offers opportunities for transfer students to earn bachelor’s degrees in electrical engineering or mechanical engineering in 2 ½ years. “Many of the largest global aerospace companies are right here—Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and others,” he said.

On its advisory board are representatives from Edwards Air Force Base, NASA Armstrong Research Center, Raytheon, BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman, as well as the City of Lancaster, the Antelope Valley Board of Trade, and the Greater Antelope Valley Economic Alliance.

The program was established as a win-win for aerospace organizations seeking engineering graduates and transfer students trying to finish their engineering degrees in the Antelope Valley, a region without a four-year university.

Proximity to hiring companies isn’t AVEP’s only advantage. “Internally, you have a cohort-style program that requires a 2 ½-year commitment. The program is taught by amazing faculty who are dedicated, knowledgeable and really have a passion for providing an outstanding engineering education to the students,” Priest said.

“It’s an interconnected program community where everyone works together to support student’s efforts to successfully persist through the program and earn an impactful career.”

Currently, three quarters of the cohorts are transfer students from Antelope Valley College.

The decade-old program can accommodate 25 students in each of its two majors. “That allows students to develop a more intimate understanding of the material,” Priest said. “Students get the support they need to be successful.

As is the case throughout the California State University system, classes this fall will take place virtually, except for a small number of hybrid classes.

“We are all living in unprecedented times and educational institutions had to make immediate changes to how courses were to be delivered in the midst of the pandemic. I’m pleased at what the AV faculty and staff were able to accomplish last spring transitioning into an online format. The faculty have all of the resources they need and the natural byproduct of that is students receive a quality education,” He said.

The importance of students receiving a quality education is top of mind. But Priest is also concerned about how students are faring in the pandemic.

“It’s imperative that we ensure that our current students are supported and their basic needs are met in light of COVID-19,” said Priest, whose staff are surveying students to make sure they have access to housing, food, computer equipment and Wi-Fi. “We want to know more about the wellness of our students. If you’re having challenges finding a place to lay your head, focusing on an engineering program would be extremely difficult. We have a number of resources available on our main campus to support our students in need.”

Although the majority of AVEP students are drawn from Antelope Valley College, Priest said there’s tremendous opportunity to expand recruitment to Kern County and colleges in the Los Angeles region. He also sees potential to expand the program to other engineering sectors, such as agriculture, advanced manufacturing, distribution, and fabrication, as well as partnering with other higher ed institutions, foundations, and government entities for the purpose of advancing research opportunities.

“AVEP’s efforts to broaden its regional footprint by fostering community alliances with the focus being research will go a long way to expand resources for faculty and students as well as offer us a seat at the table as we seek to support industry  and government efforts to answer many of the challenging questions they may have, particularly those where innovation is needed to solve them.“ he added.

Priest obtained his Ed.D. Doctor of Education in Interdisciplinary Leadership from Creighton University in 2016. He earned a master’s degree in Forensic Sciences from National University in 2003 and a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Fresno State University in 1999. Prior to joining CSULB, he was an administrator for the Venture Lab with University of California, Merced, which included lead oversight of the program’s manufacturing facility and biotech laboratory.

With more than 16 years’ experience in college admissions, recruitment, and outreach, as well as strategic retention and persistence planning and implementation, Priest was formerly lead marketing professional for a telecommunications company and a former executive with his own company.

He said he was drawn to AVEP because of the opportunity “to work for a university that offers an outstanding education, and more specifically, where the student-focused undergraduate degree program offers the essential tools needed for students to excel in their careers.”


CSULB College of Engineering Adds Seven New Faculty Members to Its Ranks

New faculty joining the CSULB College of Engineering this fall include researchers with expertise in accessible STEM education, bioimplantable medical devices, water resources, materials that respond to their surroundings, computer security and architecture, and social media data.

Siavash Ahrar

Dr. Siavash Ahrar joins the CSULB Biomedical Engineering Department as an assistant professor, after earning a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from University of California Irvine, working as a postdoctoral researcher in the UCI Department of Physics, and serving as a Science and Engineering Education Fellow (SEEF) with the Department of Bioengineering at Stanford University.

His work focuses on studying and developing an active and accessible STEM education for all learners. His research focuses on developing automation tools and their application to bioengineering, including mili and microfluidics and simple autonomous machines. During his graduate studies, Dr. Ahrar developed autonomous microfluidics (i.e., pneumatic computers) that could lead to the independent operation of laboratory tools and point-of-care diagnostics. Continue reading “CSULB College of Engineering Adds Seven New Faculty Members to Its Ranks”

The CSULB Space Sharks Prepare for Year 2 of NASA Mining Robot Competition

Student teams entering a NASA competition to build a mining robot can expect technical challenges. But in addition to engineering glitches, last year’s CSULB Lunabotics team had to contend with a government shutdown, sudden venue change, and last-minute scramble for funding.

Dehwei Hsu, the mechanical engineering senior who led last year’s FortyMiners team, said the robot’s design and development was already behind schedule when the government shutdown forced NASA to cancel the scheduled competition at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Teams still submitted reports and a slide presentation, but instead of the onsite competition in Florida, University of Alabama hosted a Robotic Mining Challenge at its Tuscaloosa campus. Continue reading “The CSULB Space Sharks Prepare for Year 2 of NASA Mining Robot Competition”

Mechanical Engineering Student Wins University Internship Essay Contest

Career Development Center counselor Jina Lee Flores and Noah Suraza
Career Development Center counselor Jina Lee Flores and Noah Suzara

Mechanical engineering major Noah Suzara describes himself as a self-starter. When he landed an interview for a cost engineering internship at Jacobs Engineering, he didn’t know the first thing about cost engineering.

“I had no idea what cost engineering was before my interview. I had to read up on it,” said Suzara, who was immediately hired and put to work on a $40-million Shell refinery project in Martinez, California. After that project, he rotated to others, making contacts and becoming a self-described “Swiss Army knife” during his two years as an intern with the company. Continue reading “Mechanical Engineering Student Wins University Internship Essay Contest”

MAE Student Receives Scholarship to Present Paper at AIAA Conference

David Ramirez headshot

CSULB Aerospace Engineering major David Ramirez learned about the importance of getting involved back when he was a student at Cerritos College. He served as a student senator there, then ran for vice president of the Associated Students of Cerritos College.

“While I was VP, that’s when things really changed,” said Ramirez, who worked on student success and DACA issues and succeeded in getting a funding bill passed to enable 10 noncitizen students to participate in a NASA competition. “That experience opened my eyes to the importance of getting involved—past the books.” Continue reading “MAE Student Receives Scholarship to Present Paper at AIAA Conference”

IEEE Green Energy and Smart Systems Conference Marks Its 10th Year at CSULB

CSULB President Jane Conoley and IGESC Chair Henry Yeh
CSULB President Jane Close Conoley and IGESSC Chair Henry Yeh

The IEEE Green Energy and Smart Systems Conference—an academic conference launched to advance a systems approach to integrating emerging technologies—marked its 10th year Monday at the Walter Pyramid at California State University Long Beach.

Featuring two tracks, nearly a dozen speakers, and 32 presentations, the conference two years ago was expanded to include a daylong workshop. That contrasted with one track and 10 presentations for the inaugural conference in 2010. Continue reading “IEEE Green Energy and Smart Systems Conference Marks Its 10th Year at CSULB”

Electrical Engineering Chair Wins IEEE Outstanding Engineering Educator Award

Henry Yeh and Keith MooreHenry Yeh, chair of the CSULB Electrical Engineering Department, has been named Outstanding Engineering Educator for IEEE’s Region 6, which covers the western United States.

Yeh received the award for making “outstanding contributions to the education of electrical engineers in the areas of digital signal processing, green energy, and smart systems.” He received the award from IEEE Region 6 Director Keith Moore. The CSULB IEEE student chapter last year was recognized with the Large Student Branch of the Year Award. Continue reading “Electrical Engineering Chair Wins IEEE Outstanding Engineering Educator Award”

Meet the Duo Starting the College of Engineering’s Newest Student Club

Nikki Nguyen and Samantha Hangsan are both computer science majors. Despite that, their paths didn’t cross until a professor introduced them.

By starting the College of Engineering’s newest student organization—Women in Computing (WiC)—the pair hope to build a close-knit community where people of all identities can pursue their interests to positively impact the future of technology.

WiC co-presidents Nguyen and Hangsan created the club not only to encourage women to pursue degrees in computer science and computer engineering, but to build leadership skills to succeed in their careers and inspire future women in technology. Continue reading “Meet the Duo Starting the College of Engineering’s Newest Student Club”

Federal Funding Secured to Establish CSULB’s First Optics and Laser Laboratory

laser lab

Electrical Engineering Assistant Professor Aftab Ahmed has been awarded funding to create California State University Long Beach’s first optics and laser laboratory. Established with a $449,320 Department of Defense grant, the lab will foster learning opportunities for students and multidisciplinary research for CSULB faculty.

The lab will feature three laser systems, including a tunable titanium-sapphire continuous wave laser, an ultrafast pulsed laser, and a telecom optical wavelength band laser. Together, they will deliver the ability to test in any wavelength, from 350 to 1,565 nanometers. Continue reading “Federal Funding Secured to Establish CSULB’s First Optics and Laser Laboratory”