How you say it is as important as what you say
Prior to his current assignment, Alonso was a Systems Architect leading the way on integrating Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) into the National Airspace for the NGAS Research and Technology organization. Alonso led the UAE Innovation Challenge for 2013 and 2014, a Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) competition in which UAE college students design and build UAVs to complete a specified mission. Earlier in his career, Alonso performed aircraft design analysis on the Navy UCAS program and system architecture design on the Automated Aerial Refueling program while mentoring students under Northrop Grumman’s High School Involvement Partnership (HIP) and High School Innovation Challenge (HSIC) programs.
In addition to his bachelor’s degree from Aerospace Engineering at Illinois, Alonso is an FAA Certified pilot for single engine and glider aircraft.
Q: Please elaborate on the achievements throughout your career that have given you the most satisfaction and why?
- Reverse engineering competitor aircraft: A job I had always wanted to do and I learned so much during the process.
- UAE Innovation Challenge Mentor (2011 – 2015) and Lead (13, 14): I’ve mentored on many outreach programs at NGC and those outside of work projects led to an opportunity to teach the design of hobby-sized autonomous aircraft overseas. I met great people, designed and built many r/c airplanes to test concepts/curriculum, and eventually was selected for a full time overseas assignment. With the duration of defense programs spanning multiple years or decades, short term projects stimulate creativity and excitement; while teaching, is something I enjoy doing.
- Systems Architecture Simulation: After an update to a systems engineering tool we use was implemented, I learned their proprietary script language, coded in the necessary information, and created a simulation fully customizable by the user to exercise any desired mission/use case while providing a functional event trace of the performed operations. At the review, our customer suggested it as an industry best practice. The everyday experience of learning something new and getting different sections of the model/code to execute made me excited to get to work.
Q: What have been the most useful lessons you have taken from your time as an AE student, and who helped you to learn them?
ALONSO: I remember as team lead on our senior design program, becoming frustrated with a dear friend of mine, as we were nearing being late on one of our milestones. That assignment taught me two things: patience and the desire to learn how to manage people in a way that doesn’t harm relationships. Gustavo knocked his section out of the park, while everyone was doing static stability; our team presented dynamic stability and verified it with a model test. We remain good friends today!
Q: What have been the most useful lessons you have learned during your career?
ALONSO: How you say it, is as important as what you say. You can be the best technical expert there is, however, it won’t do you any good if you cannot communicate the idea to others.
Q: Who have been your inspirations, particularly in AE?
ALONSO: I remember being inspired in so many ways by the AE faculty. To name a few: Professor (Dan) Bodony, who brought so much youthful energy to his lectures, inspirational for how to teach and communicate ideas; Professor (Bruce) Conway, as an experienced pilot; and Professors (Michael) Selig and (Scott) White, who seemed to bring the entrepreneur spirit and ideas with them. Professor Selig especially guided me with research opportunities, and toward accepting my first position at Northrop Grumman.
Q: What advice can you offer current students?
ALONSO: Give some thought to what you want to do after graduation, after you’ve secured your dream job.
Q: Do you have any comments on or predictions for the future of your industry?
ALONSO: Autonomy will continue to play a large role going forward and future weapons systems could rewrite the way aircraft are used/designed.
Q: Are there any other comments that you would like to make or insights you would care to share?
ALONSO: Please go to office hours. It’ll make your life easier and give you a better chance at learning even more from your professors and TAs. Best office hours I remember were for Professor Sri (Namachchivaya’s) Dynamics course, with him and at other times his TAs. It was a class I very much struggled with initially, and after attending his office hours, I was able to learn the material even better by teaching my friends what I had learned.