All About Classes

by Richard Santi

Embry-Riddle of course has exceptional flight training, a beautiful campus, and lots of fun activities available in and around the Prescott area. But what about the classes?

In high school I was not by any means the type of student that absolutely loved going to class. I wasn’t a bad student but can remember spending a lot of time watching the clock and waiting for the bell to ring.

Aeronautical Science students use flight simulation software to learn advanced jet systems, including programming a FMS computer like the one pictured in the top left of the screen.

Things changed after my first couple days at Embry-Riddle. Suddenly class became not only really interesting but incredibly fun! As an Aeronautical Science student with a Business Administration minor, I have gotten the chance to learn a lot of genuinely intriguing topics in the classroom taught by some absolutely brilliant professors who carry a wide range of industry experience. I went from looking at the clock waiting to leave, to looking at the clock not wanting to run out of time. In the Embry-Riddle classroom, I can say with certainty pretty much all of my professors have been kind and understanding, have had a strong desire to help students succeed. The best of all is that they come from a lot of diverse backgrounds with a ton of industry experience.

Our 1/2 scale model of the Wright Flyer hangs proudly in the lobby of our Academic Complex 1 which was completed in 2003, the centennial anniversary of the Wright Brothers’ pioneering flight.

The fact that a professor has experience in the industry is not something I thought too much about prior to coming to college, but I can say it is the principal thing that have made classes enjoyable for me. Getting to hear a presentation made by a retired military or airline pilot about the aircraft they flew and the experiences they had or listening to an interesting business lecture from someone who held a real-world management position at one of the world’s largest corporations are experiences that I have had and greatly cherish. It makes the classroom feel a thousand times more interesting.

Our new STEM Education Center features both an R-22 Helicopter given to us by universal Helicopters and a King Air propeller given to us by Raisbeck Engineering.

Lastly, one of the great parts of going to class in my mind is the manageable classroom sizes. The largest class I have ever had at Embry-Riddle had somewhere near 40 people in it, and I have only ever needed to take a couple of those. That is nothing like the 300-person lecture halls I had worried about when coming to college. Our average class size is around 25, but I can tell you that there are many classes you will have much smaller than that. I have had numerous labs and other classes that seated around 9 or 10 people. For me, this really was the way to learn. I like to be a part of the class, raising my hand often and having a professor who knows my name and respects me as a student, not just be a number in a large crowd.

College brings with it a lot of cool experiences. You will have a lot of fun at Embry-Riddle doing a lot of activities outside of the classroom. Like with any college, however, there will be a part of your day that will be spent in class. Why not attend college at a place where the classes are genuinely fun and interesting?

My Experience at Northrop Grumman as a Freshman

by Devon Kisfalvi

A picture of me at Willow Lake near the Embry-Riddle Campus.

My name is Devon Kisfalvi and I’m a part of the class of 2023. My major is Electrical Engineering with a minor in Systems Engineering. My amazing internship experience started January of 2020 before the start of the Spring 2020 semester. This internship wouldn’t have been possible without Embry-Riddle. I had just finished my first semester of freshman year, and became a member of the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Club on campus. Through them I was able to get a membership with IEEE, learn about the 2020 IEEE Rising Stars Conference, and was able to attend. There I saw Northrop Grumman had set up a table. I went over and introduced myself, and after talking with them they asked for a resume. One of the managers from the Gilbert, AZ office who was at the conference offered me a summer internship.

The internship started May 2020 and was amazing! Even though coronavirus affected most of the in-person events being held, Northrop Grumman was able to still offer multiple opportunities for the interns to meet people and learn more about the company. During my internship I was working with the avionics team on two different projects. The first was working with the internal research and development team on looking for new parts to improve one of the critical systems of a satellite project. This research involved replacing one of the components that would have to be specifically constructed to meet the requirements set by Northrop Grumman and NASA. I communicated with a handful of companies that manufacture those components to ensure that they would meet Northrop Grumman’s and NASA’s requirements.

The second task I worked on with my mentor was collecting documentation for the Landsat 9 (L9) team on the Integrated Electronics Module (IEM) focusing on End Item Data Package (EIDP), which is the final stage of after environmental testing. The documents that needed to be included were parts lists, assembly drawings, among other reports.

Construction of the Landsat 9 at Northrop Grumman.

Even though I was just a freshman, the relevant coursework I have taken so far helped me out a lot, like Intro to Engineering (EGR 101), Digital Circuit (CEC 220), and Digital Circuit Design (CEC 222). EGR 101 has helped develop my teamwork skills to effectively communicate and work with teams of any size. CEC 220 helped me understand the coding of Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGA), logic of electrical circuits, and how logic circuits connect to create complex devices. CEC 222 helped me understand the basic components of electrical circuits and how they worked. All these classes helped me with my internship.

The Landsat 9 that I worked on at Northrop Grumman.

Even though you might only be a freshman there is still a possibility for you to be able to do an internship with a company. One thing that employers look for is how you act and how you present yourself. One key aspect is communication, both verbal and written. Anyone can come up with amazing ideas, but you need to be able to communicate them. You also will most likely be working with teams of people and you need to be able to communicate with your team to be successful. You also have to remember how you present yourself to employers. You must be professional, but you also must be yourself. Go into any possible situation with a smile and make sure to introduce yourself. Start a conversation with them. For example, you could ask a question about the company or something specific that interests you. This shows that you are interested in their company, and leads them to asking you questions about yourself. Embry-Riddle has helped me out so much and as you stay open and professional, anything is possible.

Internship During the Times of COVID

by Stephen Mouhanna

My name is Stephen Mouhanna and I am a Senior majoring in Software Engineering. This past summer I got the awesome opportunity to intern with Microsoft as a Software Engineer in the Cloud and AI Security Group. I was born and raised in Washington State, growing up 10 miles from Microsoft’s Redmond headquarters. As a Senior in the Software Engineering program at ERAU, working as a developer for Microsoft is a dream occupation for me.

Microsoft Headquarters in Redmond, Washington

I belong to an organization known as Lime Connect which partners with companies in providing scholarships and internship opportunities for high school Seniors and college students. Microsoft is one of those partners and they reached out to me through email. They said after reviewing my resume, they thought I would be a good fit for their internship program and if I were interested, I should apply. I did and a couple weeks later they scheduled an online test to check my coding skills. If you pass this test, then you move onto a phone interview. The phone interview mainly consisted of questions regarding why I am interested in working with Microsoft and what I know about the company. At the end of the interview the recruiter asked me two tech related questions. Both questions involved me explaining a certain piece of technology. The first question was no issue, but the second was to explain what threads are and what they are used for in a computer. I was honest in my reply stating that I did not know the answer, however I made sure to mention that I would be taking an operating system’s class during the Fall semester where I would learn about threads. The recruiter seemed happy with that answer and told me that I would hear back on my results in just a couple weeks. A couple weeks eventually turned into a month and I was starting to wonder if I would ever hear back but finally I got a message in my inbox informing me that they would be interested in doing a second round of interviews with me; this time in person at their headquarters in Redmond, Washington.

I was overjoyed with the news. To prepare for the next round of interviews that was just a couple weeks away I got the book Cracking the Coding Interview. This book breaks down interviews by company and what questions are typically asked by that company. It was a great buy because several of the technical questions I was asked were directly out of the book. this was all extremely exciting because this was the first time that a company has flown me anywhere. I was contacted by the Microsoft Travel team which organized everything I would need for a round-trip flight and two-night stay in Washington State. After I confirmed my travel plans with Microsoft, I then spoke with my professors about the class time that I would be missing and makeup work.

I was nervous the morning of my interviews when I arrived at Microsoft Building 111. I spent some time with the other recruits at a pre-interview breakfast. While we ate the organizers talked about the company and what to expect throughout the day. After breakfast, each interviewee was assigned a room where the interviews would take place. We would spend about an hour with one interviewer and then the interviewers would rotate to another person. I was interviewed by four different employees that all worked for the same group. Two of the employees asked questions about me and my background and the other two asked me more technical questions that involved me writing code on a whiteboard that was in the room. When writing code on the board we could write in any programming language that we wanted. Most of the other interviewees chose to write their code in Python, I decided to go with C# as that what I was most familiar with and I knew that it was the main language used by many Microsoft developers. All in all, the interviews took about 6 hours from arrival to leaving the building with breakfast and lunch included.

I flew back to Arizona satisfied with my performance during my interviews. I was told that I would hear back in about two weeks. Luckily, I only had to wait about three days when I got a call from my recruiter congratulating me on my job offer. All I had to do to accept it was go to Microsoft’s career site and sign the document digitally. I worked with my recruiter to flesh out some details such as start date and I could relax for the rest of the school year knowing I had a job for the summer.

Not long after accepting my offer I was assigned the team I would spend the summer working with. I was contacted by the team manager who wanted to introduce me to the team briefly over a video call. Since I was going back to Washington State for Christmas break, I suggested that maybe we could do an in-person meeting instead. They thought it was a great idea and I got to have lunch with the team in one of the Microsoft cafeterias. My mentor from the team gave me some documentation for a tool that I would be using to review before I came back for the summer. They also gave me a tour of the building that I would be working in.

Unfortunately, I never got the chance to work on the Microsoft campus because the pandemic began before my start date. Microsoft employees were ordered to work from home beginning in mid-March and they still haven’t returned. Currently they have a tentative return date of January 2021. A decision was made to move the internship program to remote internships. This caused managers to scramble to reinvent how an internship was done. Interns who were not living in Canada or the United States would lose their internships for this summer and for those close to graduating they would be put into the system to be considered for hiring.

When Embry-Riddle went to online classes in March 2020, I decided to move home to Washington State to finish my classes and do my internship. In April, I was contacted by my mentor on the team and we kept in touch via email until my start date when he could officially talk to me over Microsoft Teams. All my computer hardware was shipped to me prior to my start date. The team administrator had sent me an email notifying me to be on the lookout for a box of components to be delivered within two weeks of my start date. Every time a package would come to the door I would run down and interrogate whoever had brought the package in if it was coming from Microsoft or not. The box of hardware happened to arrive only a day or so before I was due to start, resulting in many points of false hope at seeing a delivery truck pull up to the house only for it not to be the package I’d been anticipating.

Opening my hardware shipment.

The hardware I was given included a Microsoft Surface, docking station, a nice monitor, keyboard, and mouse. I worked with my mentor who helped me get oriented with the code base and threw in some useful tips about the tools I would be using. There were some minor hiccups relating to being remote but overall, it was a smooth on-boarding process.

My team had one meeting every day where we would talk about what our plan was for that day. My end goal for the summer was to create a data aggregation and insights tool so that my team could better understand how our service was being utilized. I would work with my mentor, talking with him every few days, creating a road map on how to reach this goal. My first task was to access the usage data for our service using CosmosDb. Once I could access the data, I would have to present the data on our website. From there I gradually added insights on the data, which compiled useful information about the data.

Doing the back-end of the website was easy for me because it was all done in C#, however I do wish I had known more JavaScript before my internship. JavaScript would have been a huge help adding more functionality to the website and would have given me more tools for adding graphics to the site like various charts.

I got to learn about a lot of tools that typical software developers use. One of these tools being Key Vault which is used as a way to access what we call “secrets” in code. A secret is a string that we don’t want just anyone to have access to. A typical secret would be something like a connection string to a database or an authorization key. one last interesting tool was our internal deployment visualizer. This tool is my favorite by far. Not because it’s a particularly interesting tool but because watching my service deployment progress gave me an intense feeling of satisfaction and pride to know that I was able to contribute something meaningful to a company as important in the tech field as Microsoft.

Visualization of the Deployment of my Service

The last week of my internship was a busy week of what is called “Intern Check-Out”. This included recording myself giving a PowerPoint presentation of my project since we were unable to meet in person. The Leadership Team viewed the intern presentations then we were assigned a Q&A session with the Leadership Team. Since we didn’t know what questions were going to be asked, we needed to be prepared and make sure our projects worked so we could demonstrate them. Check-out time also included reviews from my manager and my mentor. I was given feedback on my strengths and weaknesses. Then my manager gave me an invitation to come back next summer and intern with them again. I immediately said yes but I was warned it was up to HR if I could return to the same team even though my manager put in a request for my return to them. I have committed to returning to Microsoft, but they will not tell me where I have been assigned until later this Fall.

During my internship I applied and was accepted into the Microsoft Student Ambassador Program. If you are interested in a software engineering position at Microsoft please reach out to me. I would be more than happy to expand on my experience or help you in applying for your own Microsoft internship. You can reach out to me at StephenMo@studentambassadors.com.

A Great Start to Senior Year

by Bria Booth

Hello everyone! Summer has finally ended. This year, I felt so ready to get back into classes. It’s been about six months since I’ve been able to see friends and learn in a classroom. I moved back to Prescott two weeks ago to celebrate my friend Vee’s birthday.

Our freshman year, Vee and I lived in the same dorm! We met on the “Schools App” a few months before move-in and got to know each other. Though we don’t live together anymore, she’s become one of my closest friends. The people that I met my freshman year are all so important to me. We’ve grown and faced challenges together. Our friend Grace falls into that same category. She was a part of my orientation group, and we ended up getting along really well. Grace and Vee have been my family while away from home. We all made sure to socially distance before seeing each other in person. We’ve been keeping to pretty small social circles during the summer, so it was nice to be able to hang out with friends.

To celebrate Vee’s birthday, we visited Grace’s parents in Tubac. We spent a few relaxing days there swimming, looking after newly acquired plants, and making pizza. When we got back to Prescott, Vee planned a socially distanced birthday outing with a larger group of friends. We all brought blankets and masks and shared stories from summer.

Classes are quite a bit different than last year. About half the time, I meet with my class online, and when classes are in-person, we sit at every other chair. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t going to be an odd semester, but I’m really looking forward to my classes. So far, I’m the most excited about my Capstone. Yesterday we were assigned our groups and projects. I’ll be working on Attitude Reaction Wheels. Our group is picking up where a capstone team from last year left off.

At Embry-Riddle in Prescott, an Engineers Capstone project takes two semesters. The first is focused on Preliminary Design and the second is Detail Design. The goal is to have a prototype built by the end of our senior year. It’s still hard for me to believe that I’ve started work on the biggest project of my four years at Embry-Riddle.

Over the last week, I’ve had so many people reach out about my first blog post! I’m happy to see that so many people seem to be excited about it. I’m looking forward to sharing my experiences on campus, but I’d also love to hear from you about what you’d like to hear about. Feel free to comment on this blog post with subjects you’d like me to write about!

Honeywell Urban Air Mobility

By Henrik Hoffmann

Hi, I am Henrik Hoffmann a rising Aerospace Engineering senior, and during my junior year I had the privilege to work on the Urban Air Mobility (UAM) project with Embry-Riddle’s Undergraduate Research Institute (URI), which was sponsored by Honeywell Aerospace for the fall and spring semester. Through the support of the URI, Dr. Johann Dorfling, and with the support of Honeywell engineers, UAMs flight testing and data analysis started at the end of our summer internship and is planned to finish during the 2020 fall semester.

The purpose of this project for my junior school year and summer internship was to characterize the power requirements, climb profile, and descent profile capabilities of various simulated UAMs. I also helped define required UAM flight capabilities, most efficient flight paths, and UAM limitations. Multiple configurations and concepts of UAM aircraft are being proposed, designed, and built by a variety of companies such as Airbus, Joby Aviation, Kitty Hawk, Lilium, Terrafugia, Uber Air, VA-1X and Volocopter. Concepts for these UAMs include multirotor, fixed wing, and rotating rotor wing designs.

Me (third from right) with the rest of the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University UAM Team after presenting to the Honeywell representatives.

To join this project, our team had to submit a resume and letter of recommendation to Honeywell to get an interview. Our team consists of six Embry-Riddle students, our mentor Dr. Dorfling, as well as multiple Honeywell engineers. The major job of our first semester was to submit a survey to Honeywell that included a design of our drone, flight test plans, wind tunnel test plans, and a characterization of our drone compared to previous UAM designs. During the second semester we built our UAM, and 3-D printed a compartment designed to better help predict and characterize UAMs similar to ours.

Due to Covid-19, our project was not finished over the school year and got pushed into our summer internship. As a result, our internship was conducted virtually, and our project’s progress was slowed. But over the summer, small test flights took place along with error analysis, and I worked with Honeywell Aerospace’s Electrical Power Group in Torrance, California on the Next Generation Jammer Program (NGJ). My work with the NGJ tested mid band as well as low band performance calculation of the Ram Air Turbines Generation (RATG).

Over this summer of 2020, Bell conducted the first customer flight test of UAM designs our team worked on, and I can see where the research my team and I are doing will be implemented in the future. Our team’s UAM project will continue over the 20/21 school year and will include our first test flight. That will allow us to analyze the data to predict the optimal flight takeoff and landing paths for our UAM design. The upcoming Honeywell UAM Team will include a mix of returning team members as well as new juniors to finish off the project. Once our project is finished up the same process will be restarted with another UAM type, and could include multirotor, fixed wing, or rotating rotor designs.

Our visit to the Honeywell location in Deer Valley, Ariz.

The experiences I gained with my team and during my summer internship has been amazing. Working on this project has allowed me to apply what I have learned from the classroom and to see how our work will change transportation around the world. Our internship has also allowed me to experience Honeywell’s corporate environment and further my understanding of UAM. I have enjoyed this project and would highly recommend this opportunity to anyone!

Research Opportunity for Undergraduates in Autonomous Vehicles

by Andrea Gray

This past summer I was privileged to work as an undergraduate on a National Science Foundation funded research project at Wright State University. This research program was focused on autonomous vehicles and split up the 11 participants into 4 separate teams working on specific research and development projects under the general topic of autonomous vehicles.

I was on a team with another undergraduate student studying Electrical Engineering working on developing a forward collision detection and avoidance system in autonomous ground vehicles using LiDAR and IBM’s 90nm CMOS technology. As a Software Engineering student, the focus of circuit creation and design was not something I was familiar with, but luckily, I had a wonderful teammate and supervisor, along with the experiences I have had at Embry-Riddle, I was able to learn and be successful in my work.

LiDAR is growing in popularity with autonomous ground vehicles due to their ability to function in adverse weather conditions (comparative to a camera) and their recent decrease in cost. The 90nm CMOS, Complimentary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor, is being used along with the LiDAR because it is a low-power and low-space solution that can also produce the necessary performance needed to make rapid decisions for the system. This LiDAR system, being low-energy and high-performance, is a development that is highly valued in the autonomous ground vehicle field. While there are many teams performing research and development for systems such as this one, there is no system that has been adopted by commercial or professional companies as there is still a lot to be perfected in the systems and costs can still be too high. This is where our research shows its value, since LiDAR is rapidly dropping in price and our system is based on dependability, our final design and report should be very useful for others in the field after presented at a technical conference at the end of this year.

For the development of this system, we first designed the basic circuitry logic in MATLAB. This process was where I was able to take the lead from my previous MATLAB and Simulink experience and develop a basic functional forward collision detection and prevention system. From there, we exported the circuit into a software platform called Cadence. Cadence allows for circuit development that meets the specific specifications and functionalities of particular technologies per their manufacturer’s specifications. My teammate, being familiar with Cadence, took over the circuitry design while I did more research on issues that would need to be mitigated with LiDAR systems such as the detection of the return LiDAR pulse off of obstacles with poor reflectivity rates (i.e. matte black bar bumpers). My teammate navigated the complex Cadence design process, with my research inputs, and we were able to successfully create our final circuitry system for a forward collision detection and prevention system for an autonomous ground vehicle.

By the end of the 3 months, I had gained a large understanding of autonomous ground vehicles, their history, and their future. I produced a background report, multiple progress reports on the technology we designed with their setbacks and future plans, and I am currently working on the final report of the project, along with my teammate, which is planned to be published into a conference by the end of the year. Along with knowledge gained on the topic, I learned an immense amount about perfecting my time management skills, my teamwork abilities, and, a vital skill for engineers, the ability to create a professional technical report that is well-organized and well-written all while being completed under a strict time constraint. I am very grateful for not only this experience, but also for the knowledge gained during it and the knowledge I was able to utilize from my academic career at Embry-Riddle.