Cal State LA Supports Using the Tools Professionals Use in Engineering Education

Jocylene Arevalo

Photo: Jocylene Arevalo

Using the Tools Professionals Use
Gives ECST Students a Leg Up

Learning how to use the tools professionals use is an important part of the academic study of engineering. That’s one reason why more than 6,500 universities around the world use MATLAB and Simulink from MathWorks to help students analyze data, conduct research, and develop the computational skills needed for the most in-demand technical careers. ECST is one of them. MATLAB and Simulink are model-based design tools enabling engineers to design and simulate systems before building prototypes.

In August 2021, MathWorks named Jocylene Arevalo a Cal State LA MATLAB Student Ambassador—a paid position and high honor for her and Cal State LA given that she is one of just three MATLAB student ambassadors at California State University campuses. In that role, Arevalo introduces the program to fellow students, answers their questions, and holds events and workshops so they can become more proficient using the tool. She also promotes the research and projects of students using the program through social media channels. When MathWorks holds competitions for students, she encourages ECST students to participate.

A fourth-year mechanical engineering major, Arevalo spent the summer of 2020 immersed in MATLAB online training, ultimately completing seven different MATLAB courses. Her determination to become an expert user did not go unnoticed. Dr. Mike Thorburn, ECST Capstone Senior Design Director and  Numerical Methods instructor, from whom Arevalo took two courses, recommended her for the position of Student Ambassador when it became available at Cal State LA.

“More and more design in industry is being done in software before engineers build hardware prototypes,” says Dr. Thorburn. “Through software design and simulation, you can be confident that a design will work before you start cutting metal. MATLAB isn’t the only tool we use, but it’s very significant. It’s standard practice now in a variety of industries including aerospace, aviation, and automotive. I encourage our students to use it as a way of differentiating themselves with potential employers.”

Arevalo didn’t need much of a push. “I have a passion for coding,” she says. “Also, simulating before building is less risky and can save companies millions of dollars. That was one of the reasons that learning MATLAB was interesting to me.”

This past summer, Arevalo had an internship as a systems test engineer for Northup Grumman and has already been invited back as a full-time employee. She was happy to learn that the company uses MATLAB and that she had an opportunity to use it in a professional setting.

In addition, this fall Arevalo is on ECST’s Baja SAE team for the third year. Baja SAE is a collegiate design competition sponsored by SAE International, a global association of more than 128,000 engineers and related technical experts in the aerospace, automotive and commercial-vehicle industries. In the competition, teams of engineering students are tasked with designing, building, testing, promoting, and competing with a single-seat, all-terrain sporting vehicle for recreational use. For this year’s competition, Arevalo is serving as lead of the steering subsection team and plans to use MATLAB in the design of the steering subsystem of ECST’s competition vehicle.

After graduating, Arevalo hopes to work in the aerospace industry on projects that benefit the planet. A highlight of her summer internship was being able to see the James Webb Space Telescope. Intended as the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope as NASA’s flagship mission, the telescope will be able to look deeper into space to discover and study some of the first galaxies and stars in the universe. The telescope is scheduled for launch on December 18, 2021, with Northup Grumman as the prime contractor.

Asked what she has learned by being a MATLAB Student Ambassador, Arevalo says, “It gives me the opportunity to talk with lots of students that I wouldn’t have otherwise. It also showed me that students are looking for knowledge and skills that will make them more visible to employers. I loved being able to use MATLAB in my internship this past summer and I like being able to help other students get that kind of experience.”