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.”


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”

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”

Boeing Holds Interview Sessions for Its BCA-SoCal Student Engineering Program

There was strong interest Wednesday in a Boeing program that gives engineering students a chance to gain up to a year of job experience. The BCA-SoCal Student Engineering Program is open to juniors and seniors who are U.S. citizens, have a GPA of 3.0 or above, and are studying aerospace, civil, electrical, or mechanical engineering.

Dozens of students brought their resumes and dressed for success for a chance to be interviewed for one of 15 positions in Boeing’s Long Beach and Seal Beach facilities. The positions are full-time during summer and 20 hours per week during the school year. Seven hires will work at the Long Beach facility and the remainder in Seal Beach. Continue reading “Boeing Holds Interview Sessions for Its BCA-SoCal Student Engineering Program”

ME Alumni Shares His Experience as R&D Test Engineer at Northrop Grumman

Mechanical engineering alumni Bryan Calungcagin, now a research and development test engineer with Northrop Grumman, returned to campus Wednesday with some advice. All that theory in courses like power plant design, control systems, and finite element analysis? Students are actually going to need it once they start working in the engineering field. Continue reading “ME Alumni Shares His Experience as R&D Test Engineer at Northrop Grumman”

Engineering Distinguished Lecture Panel on the New Face of Engineering in 2030

Will artificial intelligence put people out of jobs? Is the idea of working for one company your entire career obsolete? Will the engineering field include previously underrepresented groups? And how important are so-called soft skills?

These are some of the questions tackled by the industry panel at Thursday’s Engineering Distinguished Lecture, which was timed to coincide with CSULB’s Imagine BEACH 2030 crowdsourcing campaign to examine the future. Continue reading “Engineering Distinguished Lecture Panel on the New Face of Engineering in 2030”

Northrop Grumman Holds Resume Workshop for Post-Military Students

Five veterans attend a resume workshopIf you’ve served in the military, you probably have a long list of accomplishments to include on your resume. But those acronym-rich descriptions can require some translating to make sense to civilian hiring managers.

On Monday, recruiters from Northrop-Grumman were at the CSULB College of Engineering to help veterans present their military experience in a way that  stands out for hiring managers going through stacks of resumes.

“The resume workshop for veterans offered tips on how to translate a military background to a civilian-friendly resume,” said Eddie Jimenez, a Northrop Grumman university relations specialist. “The idea is to help them create better resumes.” Continue reading “Northrop Grumman Holds Resume Workshop for Post-Military Students”

Turbine and Suspension Systems Take Top Awards at Engineering Expo

A locomotive suspension system for harsh environments was chosen as the most innovative and practical design and a turbine in-pipe system as the best design for sustainable and clean energy harvesting at the Engineering Innovation Expo Monday.

The showcase in the University Student Union included 22 Senior Design Projects from the CSULB Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering Department.

The pico hydroelectric turbine-in-pipe system uses excess pressure within residential-scale pipe systems to harvest electricity off-the-grid. The system consists of a reaction turbine, generator, and auxiliary electrical equipment. The electrical equipment is dependent upon the application which can include powering outdoor lights or charging small electronics. Additionally, the design of the system will keep the flow rate and pressure of the water entering the household in compliance with standards for potable water systems.

Team members include Cristina Azuara, Hope Daley, Elyssa Lawrence, and Daisy Zaragoza. Continue reading “Turbine and Suspension Systems Take Top Awards at Engineering Expo”

Sticking with STEM Means Limitless Possibilities for Future Careers

Panelists at the Science Extravaganza all had the same message for middle-school students: stick with STEM for a career with limitless opportunities.

Hosted by the CSULB chapter of MAES, the second annual event drew nearly 300 students from Perry Lindsey, Stephens, and Franklin Classical middle schools, as well as volunteers from The Aerospace Corp., Boeing, and other companies and student organizations.

“We need to help schools that serve underrepresented groups, and have limited funding and limited STEM,” said Anthony Ramirez, MAES CSULB Chapter Co-President and a CSULB aerospace engineering major. Continue reading “Sticking with STEM Means Limitless Possibilities for Future Careers”

Technical Seminar: Understanding the Flight of the Boomerang

Associate Dean of Research & Graduate Programs Hamid Rahai left, welcomes John Vassberg to CSULB.

Have you ever wondered how boomerangs fly? John Vassberg has. One of Boeing’s top aerodynamicists, Vassberg was at CSULB Friday to deliver one his most popular lectures—one that delves into the aerodynamic capabilities of a hunting tool developed by Aboriginal Australians thousands of years ago.

“It’s turned out to be a cult classic,” said Vassberg, who has given the talk in Paris and Brussels and at Caltech and University of Southern California. “Maybe I’ll teach you something so you’ll have something to do over the weekend,” he told faculty and students at the Spring Technical Seminar.

Now Technical Lead and Chief Aerodynamicist of Boeing Commercial Airplanes’ Advanced Concepts Design Center in Southern California, Vassberg did the research back in 2012 when he was asked to present at an American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) conference. Continue reading “Technical Seminar: Understanding the Flight of the Boomerang”