Solving the unknown with infinite possibilities

by Matt Jardin  |   

Lawrence Giron Jr.
Mechanical engineering alumnus Lawrence Giron Jr., B.S. ’23, photographed at the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, in summer 2023. (Photo courtesy of NASA Langley Research Center)

Between earning his undergraduate degree and starting graduate study, rather than take a well-deserved break, mechanical engineering alumnus Lawrence Giron Jr. participated in not one, but two prestigious NASA internships back to back.

In summer 2023, Giron served as a research associate at the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. Working under the aeronautics research directorate, he contributed to the research project codenamed CLASSy (Compact Lightweight Aerial Sensor System), a sensor system meant to assist first responders during natural disaster situations like wildfires, earthquakes or avalanches. Specifically, he aided in the development of CLASSy’s parachute recovery systems, a crucial component to provide stable and steady descents of launched sensors. 

Additionally, Giron was able to consult with NASA Langley engineers to test their designs right at the facility, which included the famous LandIR (Landing and Impact Research Facility), where every astronaut that landed on the moon trained.

Later, in fall 2023, Giron served as an intern at the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio. Working in a more traditional intern capacity complete with a mentor, he contributed to the research project codenamed SUSAN (Subsonic Single Aft Engine Hybrid-Electric Passenger Aircraft Concept), where he thermally modeled the electrical components onboard the aircraft for optimization and management of thermal health, while expanding on the MATLAB Simulink Electrical Modeling and Thermal Analysis Toolbox.

On site at NASA Glenn, Giron also participated in the Space Apps Challenge, a competition aimed at solving real world challenges using publicly available data from NASA and its space agency partners. His team was able to develop VULCAN (Virtual Utility for Locating, Containing and Assisting Notification) Fire Response Ops, designed to enhance fire prevention, monitoring and response operations using satellite data, for which the team won first place. Giron, in particular, programmed the ability to provide SMS messages for wildfire alerts in designated areas after confirmation. 

“Everything was exactly what I learned at UAA,” said Giron. “In the Langley internship, I was able to apply skills in research and writing learned at UAA that led me to being able to publish onto the NASA technical reports server. In the Glenn internship, since I was working on thermally modeling the electrical components, I was able to refer back to all the bookmarks I made and notes I took in class.”

Mentorships have been integral to Giron’s trajectory as an engineer. He developed an interest in tinkering by helping his father on random mechanical projects — cars, boats, planes, etc. That interest blossomed in high school when he joined the Dimond High School Robotics Competition and Project Lead the Way Engineering Academy.

When it came time to think about what he was going to do after high school, Giron visited UAA during a Journey into Engineering event designed to recruit high school students into the field. Intrigued by all the state-of-art equipment at his hometown university, he enrolled at the College of Engineering (CoEng).

Coincidentally, Giron himself would act as a mentor during his undergrad years. Contributing to the CoEng Summer Engineering Academies, he was able to introduce elementary to high school students like he had been to engineering principles and nurture any interest they had in the industry.

“My favorite part of engineering is having an understanding of how everything works and how a single problem can be solved in multiple ways,” said Giron. “It feels cool being able to solve a problem my own way, and it’s an important thing to be able to teach younger students how to solve problems their way and to develop their interests and fulfill what they wanted to do.”

Back at UAA in graduate studies, Giron is now hard at work in the mechanical engineering graduate program. Working under the guidance of Department Chair and Associate Professor Raghu Srinivasan, Ph.D., Giron is contributing to a NASA-funded research project on atmospheric corrosion studies of metal alloys.

"Lawrence was a student assistant for my middle school corrosion camp and took my corrosion course as an elective. It’s nice to see him come back to UAA and do his graduate research in corrosion,” said Srinivasan. “His journey through various NASA opportunities is a classic example of how NASA supports not just aeronautic and space research, but also funds research that includes remote sensing, corrosion, biological sciences and more. It also highlights the quality of our programs and our students competing on a national level."

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