Momentum Member Spotlight - July 2012
AIAA Congratulates Allen R. LaBryer
By Duane Hyland, AIAA Communications
AIAA turns the Member Spotlight on a student member this month, selecting Allen R. LaBryer of the University of Oklahoma as our Member Spotlight for the month of July 2012. LaBryer recently won the Jefferson Goblet, awarded to the best paper, written by a student presented at AIAA’s annual Structure, Structural Dynamics, and Materials (SDM) Conference. The award is based on both the manuscript and presentation of the paper, with the winner selected by the student paper chair of the SDM Conference. LaBryer joined AIAA’s student branch at the University of Oklahoma in 2008.
LaBryer began our interview by stating that his winning the Jefferson Goblet “would not have been possible” without the guidance of his mentors, Drs. Peter Attar, an AIAA Senior Member, and Prakash Vedula, both professors at the University of Oklahoma. LaBryer credited both gentlemen for “remaining patient, upbeat, helpful, and committed” to the development of his research skills.
When asked what inspired him to study aerospace and seek a place in the profession, LaBryer illustrated how the desire to enter our profession is often ignited by childhood experience and role models. LaBryer’s earliest influence was his Uncle Richard who would build model rockets, from scratch materials, with Allen, and while Allen noted that “some of them failed comically, a few managed to soar into the heavens.” The love of aerospace gained through model rocketry with his uncle was nurtured by his sixth grade science teacher, Dennis Kretschman at the John Ball Zoo School in Grand Rapids, Mich. LaBryer stated that it was Kreschman who taught him “to think critically and take nothing in the world for granted.” Lastly, LaBryer credited his mother, a single parent who worked long hours in the automotive industry while he was growing up, for instilling in him the virtues of “love, hard work, character, and integrity, all of which are necessary to live a meaningful life.”
When asked about his favorite moment in his education process, thus far, LaBryer wrote about the time during 2008 and 2009 that he spent as a GK-12 Fellow for the National Science Foundation. During that time, LaBryer said he developed and taught lessons on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects for high school students. Following a guided inquiry approach to education, which encourages students to learn from a more hands-on process of discovery and experimentation, LaBryer and his teaching partner “guided the students through several hours of experiments to learn about principles of air pressure, lift, drag, and basic flight controls. The students also constructed rubber-band-powered airplanes and applied their newfound knowledge of flight to compete in a maximum endurance competition.” Through this program, LaBryer was able to teach at several locations, but it was his time at the 2010 International Engineering Academy at the Prince of Songkla University in Hat Yai, Thailand, that stood out the most in his mind, because it gave him a chance to teach “aerospace engineering across cultural borders.”
LaBryer sees a future of aerospace in which our community returns to our roots of being willing to take calculated risks in the name of scientific discovery, and where we shake off the bonds of complacency which may be holding innovation and discovery back. LaBryer stated: “I hope to see the aerospace community return to the same risk-taking culture that put us on the moon. My concern is that we have become, to some degree, far too complacent with existing technologies. For example, despite the commercial industry's recent transition from aluminum to composite structures, we are still producing the same traditional airplanes with a cylindrical fuselage. In an age where fuel economy has become paramount, we should be investing heavily in more efficient alternatives such as the blended-wing-body. Many of the technologies that would be beneficial to us today were conceived decades ago. It is my belief that risk-aversion has prevented these technologies from seeing the market.”
When asked to give advice to his peers about entering the profession, LaBryer counseled them to “seek a job for the excitement rather than the pay,” reminding them that “you will be rewarded in the long run if you enjoy your work.” He also urged his peers to seek a graduate degree, assuring them that if they chose to pursue one, “they would not regret it.” For those students still in high school and thinking about pursuing an aerospace degree, LaBryer reminded students that: “An aerospace degree is unique in the sense that it encompasses a wide variety of disciplines. To become an aerospace engineer, one must learn about basic physics, chemistry, materials, mechanics, dynamics, controls, experimental techniques and computing. Such knowledge will allow you to see the world through a different lens.” LaBryer concluded with a reminder that should a student find that they do not want to pursue aerospace as a career that their degree is still valuable as “an aerospace degree also serves as an excellent foundation for other scientific fields such as medicine.”
LaBryer concluded our interview with some thoughts about the value of AIAA to student members, or to students who have not yet joined a student branch. LaBryer advised: “The importance of networking cannot be overstated. Attending AIAA meetings and conferences will enable you to meet other professionals in the industry who can help you find a job. If you plan to stay in academia, intellectual discussions with AIAA members can also provide you with ideas for future research.”
AIAA congratulates LaBryer for his success in the Jefferson Goblet competition, and for his selection as the AIAA Member Spotlight for July, 2012. We wish him the best on the continuation of his academic career.