Sending Engineering Skyward

When Airbus, one of the world’s leading aircraft manufacturers, began building its first North American assembly plant just down the road from the University of South Alabama, assistant professor of engineering Dr. Carlos Montalvo saw an opportunity to both inspire students and to lay the groundwork for an entirely new course of study at South.

“It’s really about sharing my passion for aerospace engineering,” says Montalvo. “The collaboration with Airbus is another offshoot of that. The students here want to work on something challenging. They want opportunities to work in rewarding professions. Facilitating that helps them and the entire University.”

Montalvo joined South’s department of mechanical engineering in August 2014. He grew up in the Atlanta area and attended Georgia Tech, where he earned his doctorate in aerospace engineering in 2014. He has worked on missile systems, parafoils, and even airships. His special emphasis is on guidance, navigation and control systems for fixed-wing aircraft.

Montalvo says he was attracted to South because he loves the relaxed feel of the area, and because he sees it as an exceptional opportunity. “One of my goals is to eventually offer a major in aerospace engineering,” he explains. “This is a place where I can grow. There’s something specific I contribute here through my background. The prospect of putting South on the aerospace map is exciting.”

It’s a process that’s already in motion. There are new aerospace courses and new research opportunities. Montalvo also initiated a chapter at South of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, a technical society for the aerospace profession. And last summer, he mentored two teams of engineering students from South that competed in the first Airbus Innovation Showdown, a national competition among college students to help Airbus create the “Aircraft of the Future.” One of those teams won the competition. Their idea, which focused on cabin design and passenger comfort, is expected to be implemented in Airbus’ designs.

“It was big that a team from South won,” says Montalvo, noting that two students from the winning team are now interning with Airbus.

Among other projects, Montalvo is mentoring a group of South students that Airbus is sponsoring to build an aircraft for AIAA’s national Design/Build/Fly competition in April.

“As our aerospace program grows, so will our collaborations with Airbus,” he says. “Response from the students has been huge. They were asking how to get involved the very first day I was at South. I‘m excited about what the next few years will bring.”

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