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Grad student follows childhood dream of becoming an engineer

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man smiling sitting at computer

Even when Luis Mendez was in grade school, he had an interest in engineering. In sixth grade, he began taking engineering courses through the Project Lead the Way program. Some of his earlier projects included crafting a marble roller coaster using paper, designing bridges, and learning how to use CAD. When he got to high school, he learned about the engineering process, building simple circuits, calculating the tension in truss beams of a bridge and much more. Mendez says, “Despite the varied engineering experiences during grade school and high school, I have always had my eyes set on one goal: to work for a racing team. Since childhood, I have been fascinated with motorsports. The power and elegance of the cars instilled a lifelong passion.”

Since graduating from the University of Dayton (UD) with his Bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering, Mendez is at The Ohio State University for his Master’s in Mechanical Engineering. Mendez was originally unsure of where to go to graduate school, but one of his advisors at UD personally recommended Ohio State, as that’s where she went for graduate school. At the time, Mendez was really interested in advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and was intrigued by Professor Marcello Canova’s research. Mendez says, “Much of Canova’s research deals with energy optimization and management, some of it including connected and autonomous vehicles, which is closely related to my interests.”

In his time here so far, Mendez has been working on a project in the Driving Dynamics Lab (DDL), headed by Assistant Professor Stephanie Stockar. For this project, he has been in charge of creating the routes for the vehicle to take in the driving simulator. He developed both an urban and a highway route based on geographical data from Columbus; the urban route follows Lane Avenue and High Street by Ohio State’s Columbus campus, and the highway route follows Kenny Road, Ackerman Road, and State Route 315. The routes are accurate down to tree placement and building dimensions; Mendez was able to get the architectural plans for campus buildings to ensure they were accurate. He gathered the geographical data from the United States Geological Survey website, developed the maps using RoadRunner by MathWorks and finally exported it to SCANeR Studio, which is the software used on the driving simulator in the DDL. In the past, students have developed the maps on SCANeR Studio, but that limited them to only working on the desktop in the DDL. Mendez wanted to investigate a different method that would allow students and researchers from other labs to develop routes for the simulator, which is why he started using RoadRunner.

In addition to this research project, Mendez has secured an internship for this summer at Meyer Shank Racing in Pataskala, Ohio. There, he plans to work on developing a suspension model using MATLAB and Simulink with the goal of providing the team with a tool to be used to set the car up for races. This was a huge success for Mendez because one of his goals for graduate school was to develop relationships with the motorsport industry. Since this internship will be the first step in that goal, Canova and Mendez decided that he would be doing a non-thesis master’s, which allows him to focus on those industry relationships.

Mendez is here on a College of Engineering graduate fellowship and plans to graduate this winter. He says, "My time at Ohio State has brought me closer than ever to fulfilling my childhood dreams. Through my coursework and time in the DDL, I have developed and refined my skillset, better preparing me for a career in the automotive industry. I am grateful to my family, friends, and advisors who have supported me throughout the years, especially my parents who have always encouraged me to pursue my dreams."