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CAREER VOICES


Camber Corp. is the lead systems integrator at Lone Star Unmanned Aircraft Systems Center of Excellence & Innovation, headquartered at A&M–Corpus Christi.


Daniel Mendez, Airworthiness and Standardization Engineer Camber Corporation


Born and raised in Corpus Christi, Mendez grew up dreaming of one day becoming a student at the university in his hometown. In high school, he scored top marks


in mathematics and physics tests, so by the time he was off to college, he was pretty much decided on a STEM-related degree.


At A&M–Corpus Christi, Mendez chose mechanical engineering. He recalls having a good time with all of his classes as a freshman and sophomore. But one of the courses stuck out. An “Introduction to Aircraft Aerodynamics and Performance” course gave him a firsthand look at the unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) industry.


Prior, he had done some research on unmanned underwater vehicles. In junior year, he and his team decided on a project that turned a lawnmower into an autonomous machine, essentially a remote control system. “That’s how I started getting unmanned robotics skills,” Mendez said.


During his senior year, Mendez joined the research, commercialization, and outreach office headed by Dr. Luis Cifuentes. While there, he was introduced to the Lone Star Unmanned Aircraft Systems Center of Excellence & Innovation, headquartered at A&M–Corpus Christi. By the time Mendez was getting ready to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from A&M–Corpus Christi in August 2014, he was already working with drones. Mendez joined the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) program as an intern after graduation and was offered a full-time position a few months later by Camber Corp., the lead systems integrator at Lone Star Unmanned Aircraft Systems Center of Excellence & Innovation, headquartered at A&M–Corpus Christi.


Luis Hernandez has also been an airworthiness and standardization engineer with Camber Corp. since January 2015. Four years ago he became the first person in his family to go to college. Hernandez’s parents — his mother is from Honduras and his father was born in Corpus Christi — did not complete high school.


“It was a really big deal for me to complete high school. The first time I asked my dad if I was going


Luis Hernandez, Airworthiness and Standardization Engineer Camber Corporation


14 HISPANIC ENGINEER & Information Technology | Fall 2015


to college, he actually said no,” recalls Hernandez. “Too much money to go to college was the thinking back then.”


But as Luis progressed through school in Harlingen, Texas, twenty minutes from the Mexican border, his father came to see that college was “possible, and there was benefit to investing in higher education.”


Hernandez earned an engineering place at Texas A&M College University, College Station, but when he got there, he found the field “foreign” to him. On his first day, he was one of the few students in his freshman class who didn’t know someone who was an engineer.


“In the Valley, the major jobs are in fast food, and then you’ve got minimum wage, but anything else wasn’t visible. You don’t see a lot of engineers,” he said. Hernandez would find that doors of opportunity would open up as he got to know his professors. “A lot of the college professors know so much and have so many connections with the industry,” he said.


Hernandez credits them for introducing him to the Lone Star Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Center of Excellence & Innovation, headquartered at A&M–Corpus Christi. “Doing research on UAS is awesome,” he said. Two hours away in Harlingen, Hernandez’s mom and dad are still his biggest fans, and his father tells everybody his son graduated from Texas A&M with an Aerospace Engineering degree.


Originally from San Francisco, Hunter Morgan came to Corpus Christi in 1997 when he was 4 years old. Hunter’s father moved to Texas when one of the coastal refineries in the western United States closed down.


Hunter Morgan, Software Engineer, Camber Corporation


During his high school junior year, Morgan got interested in computer programming. He earned an associate degree in the field at a


local community college and later transferred all his classes to an A&M–Corpus Christi computer science program.


In his senior year, while getting ready to do a capstone project, Morgan heard that A&M–Corpus Christi had been selected as a test site for unmanned aircraft systems by the Federal Aviation Administration.


“I didn’t know much about test sites at that point, but I realized just how important the UAS industry was,” Hunter said. The capstone project offered a rare chance for him and other computer science students to develop software for an unmanned aerial system as part of a multidisciplinary team.


www.hispanicengineer.com


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