|Francisco Zabala's computer-run airplane takes second place at contest.
April 20, 2006
By LINDA CAPLETTE
The 1965 movie "Those Amazing Young Men in Their Flying Machines" was about men who stepped into planes to fly.
Francisco Zabala, an electrical engineering major, is an amazing young man with a flying machine — specifically a small airplane operated by wireless
Zabala's poster presentation on his plane recently won second place at the 2006
Minority Serving Institutions Research Partnership Conference held at the University of Texas, Endinburg. CSUF alumna Hai Oyoung, now a mechanical
design engineer and project manager for Leach International in Orange County, took third place in the same competition.
The idea behind Zabala's creation was to devise a vehicle that could fly into areas and perform activities that would be too dangerous for regular planes,
such as reconnaissance and intelligence gathering.
"I have always been fascinated by robotic technologies, especially when applied to the field of navigation. Ever since I can remember, airplanes have awed me," said the senior who is slated to graduate in May. Zabala intends to continue his studies in systems engineering.
"At Cal State Fullerton, I had the opportunity to work with Professor Mohinder Grewal, who introduced me to the basic concepts for global positioning systems," Zabala said. "My enthusiasm grew toward this field as I realized the possibility of
developing robots based on this technology."
"Francisco is a very conscientious, hardworking student. He is a self-starter and is selfmotivated," said Grewal, a professor of electrical engineering. "By building projects such as Francisco's, students learn to apply state-of-the-art techniques
that they will be able to use in their careers. Companies look for students who have this experience. It gives them a ‘leg up' on the competition because our students have already solved the type of problems they will encounter in their careers."
Zabala now is building an unmanned ground vehicle that he has entered in the June 10-12 national 2006 Intelligence Ground Vehicle Competition at Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Mount Clemens, Mich."I spent 40 to 55 hours a week
on its development," Zabala said. "I have written most of the control software for its operation; however, we haven't moved on to the testing phase.
"My friends say I am weird, and that I enjoy engineering ‘way too much,'" he added. "Well, it's true. With the help of Professor Grewal, I have applied to the
California State University Predoctoral Program."
Zabala hopes to earn a doctorate from Caltech, then work in research and development at NASA's Dryden flight Research Center. "I would eventually
like to become a professor at a university like CSUF or Caltech."
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