If America was a Ping Pong table, I would be the ball. I grew up in Ohio, bounced out to California during the dotcom implosion, bounced back to Ohio to work at a wind tunnel, and finally bounced down to Texas where I’ve been for 13 years. Everything you’ve heard about Texas is true. It is a dry heat. Houses are cheap. Individuals can be all hat, yet have no cattle.
I grew up in Columbus, Ohio. My parents encouraged me to follow my interests which tended towards airplanes at a young age. I eventually attended The Ohio State University where I earned both a Bachelors and Master’s degree in Aeronautical Engineering. As a student there, I also worked part time at the OSU Aero/Astro Research Laboratory. I got to see how the sausage was made, doing everything from milling model parts on the Bridgeport to calibrating wind tunnel instrumentation using mercury! During that time, I also worked at Beechwold Ace Hardware. I credit that experience with teaching me how to help customers.
My proudest moment at OSU was being part of the team that built and raced a human powered vehicle during the 1994 International Human Powered Vehicle Association (IHPVA) Championship held in Eureka, California. Our vehicle was called the Buckeye Bullet and it was fast. To keep the weight down, we built it out of fiberglass, Kevlar and aluminum. We had a crushing defeat that involved, unfortunately, a parked Ford F-150. The whole project was one of the best learning experiences I’ve ever had.
For graduate school, I worked on two projects. The first was a wind tunnel study of tail icing effects on a de Havilland DHC-6 Twin Otter; this even involved a short stint at Cleveland’s NASA Glenn where the flight testing took place. If you want to read the final report, you can get it here (yes, my one and only NASA publication and my name is spelled wrong on the coversheet).
The second and most important project in graduate school was the focus of my Master’s thesis: elliptical airfoils. The unique advantage of elliptical airfoils is that their performance is independent of whether the air is coming or going. I ran transonic wind tunnel tests and CFD analyses for our candidate airfoils. The whole research project was in support of the Boeing X-50 Dragonfly program, an experimental canard-rotor-wing (CRW) aircraft. Two prototypes were built and flown. They both crashed and the program was cancelled in 2006.
In the moments between graduate school projects, I started a fun shareware software project called the Super Numerical Airfoil Creation Kit, or SNACK for short. I eventually changed the name to DesignFOIL. The goal was a simple Windows software tool that would automagically generate NACA airfoil coordinates for wings and then run them through a virtual wind tunnel. The project is still going strong today.
My first long-term job in the real world was at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics in Fort Worth, Texas. I was a store separation engineer for ten years, starting on the F-16, moving to the F-22, then ending up in Advanced Development Programs (i.e. The Skunkworks). My goal was to make sure that anything dropped from a high-speed airplane didn’t “float” back and destroy the airplane. I was honored to receive a Lockheed Aero Star Award in 2011 for some store separation simulations I did that saved the customer a few bucks.
In addition to the fun aviation-related stuff, I wrote an adventure novel called Red Hope after being inspired by the Mars Curiosity rover landing in 2012. The process of turning a one-page idea into a 58,000 word novel was very educational. I’ve clawed my way up to 12,475 on the Amazon best seller list; the guy in 12,474th place is proving to be a formidable challenger.
In 2012, a rare opportunity came up to join the Pointwise team. My work here has allowed me to expound upon the CFD roots that I established in graduate school. Grid generation is really the foundation for any good CFD solution, so it has to be done right. The subject of grid generation is pretty big, so I’m learning something new every day. One of the cool benefits of being at Pointwise is that I get to meet a lot of great people who are working on fascinating projects.
- Location: Fort Worth, Texas
- Current position: Senior Engineer
- Current computer: Windows7 64-bit, Xeon CPU @ 2GHz, 12GB of RAM
- One word that best describes how you work: Easygoing
What software or tools do you use every day?
I use Pointwise every day, all day. For ancillary tasks, I use Outlook, Excel and Word. For DIY videos, I use Snagit to perform screen captures and PowerDirector to edit the Pointwise tutorial videos. For graphics generation, I use a combination of Paint Shop Pro and Paintbrush (yes, the Windows default). Believe it or not, I still use Notepad quite a bit too.
What does your workspace look like?
My desk is in a state of organized clutter. I know where everything is and which stack it’s in. My main monitor doubles as a post-it note holder. My desk is the last stop on the technical magazine rounds, so I literally have a Magazine Mountain on my desk with occasional avalanches.
What are you currently working on?
My regular work involves helping our customers use Pointwise in the most efficient manner possible. This involves answering daily questions, teaching our training classes, and producing tutorials for the software.
What would you say is your meshing specialty?
Between the two major styles of gridding, unstructured is definitely my strong suite. However, I’m working on a structured grid project to help refine my skills in that area. If I had a specialty here, it would probably be software installation, which is no small task if you consider how many operating systems we support. Somebody once said that I could install Pointwise on a potato. That was probably exaggeration.
Any tips for our users?
If you run into an issue that is holding back your progress, please contact us immediately. Email us at email@example.com or call us at 1-800-4PTWISE. We are here to answer your questions from 8:00am to 5:00pm. If you don’t contact me, I’ll be forced to finally deal with Magazine Mountain or waste time trying to install Pointwise on taters.
What project are you most proud of and why?
I’m proud of the video tutorials that we make. These seem to be very popular and we have a lot lined up for production. I’m also proud of the features that I’ve helped get put into Pointwise. Probably the one you might recognize is the orient command for structured domains.
What CFD solver and postprocessor do you use most often?
I get to tinker with a lot of codes throughout the customer support process. With regard to solvers, that includes the likes of Fluent and OpenFOAM mostly. The same goes for postprocessors. Depending on what the customer is working with, I’ll find myself using Tecplot, EnSight, ParaView, etc…
Are you reading any interesting technical papers we should know about?
It’s not exactly a paper, but John D. Anderson Jr.’s “A History of Aerodynamics” is perfect for anybody interested in why aeronautical engineering looks the way it does.
Do you plan on attending any conferences or workshops this year?
What do you do when you’re not generating meshes?
When I’m not at Pointwise, my spare time is spread among three things. My family first and foremost. My wife and I spend a lot of time with our children, trying to get them excited about learning. Second is my hobby airfoil software called DesignFOIL. Lastly is my budding attempt at authoring a novel called Red Hope. Oh, and the Rubik’s Cube: I’ve been a speed cuber for about ten years with my average solve time running around 60 seconds. At one point, I was the 649th fastest cuber in the world.
What is some of the best CFD advice you’ve ever received?
Get Pointwise. And make sure double-precision graphics is enabled (Edit/Preferences/Graphics).
If you had to pick a place to have dinner, where would you go?
I have two little children, so my restaurant needs are simple. However, the best place for a 10th anniversary dinner is the Reatta Restaurant in downtown Fort Worth. For all other occasions, there is Subway.