Archive for Sadie Rynestad

Unmanned Aerial Systems Team @ CNU

UAS Team members building the competition aircraft

The Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Team was founded four years ago in a small dorm room in Warwick River Hall by PCSE majors Austin Suhler and Jake Tarren who were soon after joined by another computer engineering student, Nigel Armstrong. Since then the team has grown significantly. They have moved into a dedicated lab in Luter Hall, have added 20 members, and for three years in a row, they have competed successfully in the international Student UAS competition hosted by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI).

Austin Suhler retrieving the practice drone model after flight

What is the UAS Team about?

The team’s vision probably says it best: “To inspire and educate future leaders in Unmanned Aerial Systems.”

The UAS team is a group of students who are interested in all aspects of unmanned aircrafts – technical as well as non-technical. As a team, they have organized themselves in several subgroups each focusing on important components of the overall project. The Payload Team, for example, deals with the hardware that goes inside the drone, while the Flight Team makes sure that the aircraft is still aerodynamic and operational after equipment is added. This team also flies the aircraft. Other subteams include the Software Team, which writes the code for the drone to fly autonomously, and the Cyber Security Team, which secures any networks and wireless links that are used during competition. The team also includes students who are interested in marketing and fundraising, which both are quite important for the long-term sustainability of the team.

In order to do well at the competitions, the students meet regularly throughout the year to learn about the technologies and work on the various components of their unmanned system. During the spring semester, as soon as the weather allows it, the team spends most Saturdays at a flying field in Suffolk, Virginia to practice flying and to perform systems tests. These ‘field trips’ are not only a great opportunity to learn how to fly drones, but also to hang out with other team members. In fact, most team members will agree that going to the flight field is one of the highlights of being in the club.

The UAS Team in the 2016 competition

Every June the UAS team competes in the AUVSI Student UAS competition, which is held at the Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland.

According to the official rule book, the competition “is designed to foster interest in Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), stimulate interest in UAS technologies and careers, and to engage students in a challenging UAS mission. The competition requires students to design, integrate, report on, and demonstrate a UAS capable of autonomous flight and navigation, remote sensing via onboard payload sensors, and execution of a specific set of tasks. […] The competition has three major elements: the Technical Design Paper, the Flight Readiness Review Presentation, and the Mission Demonstration. The paper details a team’s UAS design. The presentation details the team’s testing and preparedness for the competition. The demonstration simulates a mission in which the UAS and team is evaluated. The mission consists of autonomous flight, obstacle avoidance, object detection, and air delivery.”

What are the benefits from being on the UAS team?

Apart from having fun and learning tons of relevant knowledge, being a team member can have ‘direct consequences’ when it comes to jobs and internships. Many employers, also outside the UAS field, are thoroughly impressed to see students being engaged in a club like this, learning about tools and technologies in one of the hottest R&D fields around, and solving real-world engineering challenges.

Several students have received internships or job offers because of their involvement with the team. Take for example Davis Catherman, the team captain. Due to his experience with the UAS team, he was offered an internship at NASA where he joined a team of researchers in the UAS sector. Another great example is Sadie Rynestad, who was recruited as an intern by DroniCar, a NASA spin-off in York County, which develops unmanned solar airship systems.

How can you join the team?

The team is always accepting new members. If you are interested in any aspect of UASs, contact Davis Catherman at  Also, you can always stop by and take a peak in the UAS lab in Luter 242 to see what the team is up to!


What You Missed at Pizza My Mind

Victoria Meadows, Applied Physics, Class of 2014

Hello Captains!  Last week we had the pleasure of hosting Ferguson Enterprises, Inc. for Pizza My Mind.  We were excited to welcome back PCSE alumni, Victoria Meadows and Dorion Jackson who joined the group of presenters.  Ferguson Enterprises, Inc. is headquartered in our own back yard, Newport News, Virginia and is the largest plumbing wholesaler in North America.

Dorion Jackson, Information Systems, Class of 2014

Ferguson is a supplier of commercial and residential plumbing supplies.  However, their expertise goes beyond plumbing.  They are a diverse distributor that has multiple businesses including HVAC/R, waterworks and industrial that includes services for aerospace, automotive, energy, health care, technology and transportation industries.

Ferguson grew from a local supply company to now having over 23,000 employees and they take pride in their Training Program which is designed for employees to really learn the Ferguson business from the ground up.

Ferguson is a good corporate company that supports many local programs that adds positively to the community. Check out the Ferguson Cares webpage for more information and their Careers page  Ferguson is looking to expand their workforce and they have opportunities for interns and soon to be graduates!

What You Missed at Pizza My Mind


Sophomore, Drake Cole chatting with Thomas Hughes

Hello Captains!  Thursday, November 3rd, Marty Smith and fellow CNU alumni, Thomas Hughes from AMSEC came to present at Pizza My Mind.  AMSEC provides services to support the sustainment of the US Navy Fleet of ships and emerging commercial ships from conception to retirement.  In other words, they maintain US Navy Ships to increase their lifespan. AMSEC services offer Maintenance Modernization, Information Technology Services, Logistics, Engineering, and Training.  They are located in 35 places world wide!

What are the benefits of working for AMSEC?  According to Thomas, AMSEC is a great place to work for your first job.  They provide you with a security clearance and you can get your skills up to date if planning to apply to other companies.  There are many travel opportunities and the company is very fast paced so you will never get bored.  Marty believes that one of the best reasons to work at AMSEC is because the job is so consistent.  This means that it is very unlikely for people to get laid off because ships will always have to be maintained.  It sounds like AMSEC is a great place to work for a long term or to use as a gateway to other job opportunities.

What does AMSEC look for in an employee/intern when hiring?  AMSEC is looking for candidates that have excellent communication skills because a lot of projects are done in teams.  This means that you must be a team player and work well with others.  Other traits mentioned were being flexible, adaptable, creative, and innovative.  Also, listed under each job description on the website, is the certain technical skills one should have when applying to the position.

AMSEC is now hiring interns who are preferably rising seniors.  There are usually 2-4 internship positions each year.  To apply you must go to  In addition to applying online, Marty suggested that you make a phone call to the HR department at AMSEC to better your chances.  They also do on-campus interviews here at CNU.  So get out there and apply so you don’t miss out on this great opportunity!

What You Missed at Pizza My Mind


Mandy Rogers presenting at the seminar

Hello Captains!  OnThursday, October 6th, the PCSE department hosted Northrop Grumman for Pizza My Mind.  Northrop Grumman is a leading global security company providing innovative systems, products and solutions to government and commercial customers worldwide.  We were lucky to be visited by a former Christopher Newport alumna, Mandy Rogers and Vice President of the Intelligence Solutions Business Unit, Ms. Ginger Wierzbanowski.

Northrop Grumman is a very large defense contractor but they are also involved in their local community.  Half of the company is based on technical work and the other half is focused on leadership. One of their biggest outreach missions was the creation of prosthetics for individuals who cannot afford them. They are also involved with gaming, cyber intelligence and biometrics. Northrop Grumman’s Biometric Ecosystem is a comprehensive range of biometric intelligence solutions currently being used for military, law enforcement, counterterrorism and border control.  In addition, they work on collaborative projects partnering with over 60 different companies including Lockheed Martin, MITRE Corporation and BAE Systems just to name a few.


Haley Currence speaking with Mandy Rogers

Mandy Rogers graduated in 2010 with a degree in Computer Science.  She started interning at Northrop Grumman during her junior year.  She became a part of a rotational program within the company and has worked in more than 10 different states.  Teamwork, Mentors, and a little failure got her to where she is today.  Mandy stated, “One has to embrace their failures in order to succeed”.  What she valued most about CNU is her liberal arts education. She believes that is what makes her a better employee and critical thinker.


Jonah Lazar speaking with VP. Ginger Wierzbanowski

Ms. Wierzbanowski is the Vice President of Intelligence Solutions Business Unit. She has extensive expertise in both domestic, international space, defense policy, and military intelligence.  Before working at Northrop Grumman, she served in the Air Force for 20+ years. She highlighted the importance of being a well-rounded individual and noted the importance of having communication skills.  “Make sure you know how to communicate or no one will listen to your ideas if you can not sell them”.

Northrop Grumman is now accepting applications for summer internships and full-time jobs.  If you are interested, students should go to:  Please come out to the next Pizza My Mind so you do not miss great presenters like Northrop Grumman!  Pizza My Mind is hosted every Thursday at 12:20 p.m. this semester.  See you there!


Inaugural Womens Mentorship Program Kick-Off


Two students meet their Mentor for the first time

Hello Captains!  On Monday, September 12th, CNU’s PCSE Department hosted its Inaugural Mentorship Program Kick-Off reception.  The event took place in the Luter Hall Atrium where students and mentors came out to learn more about this new program, and to meet each other face-to-face for the first time.  The initial group consisted of only female students and mentors as the program came from an idea from the newly established SWE, Society of Women Engineers chapter last year.


Dr. Nicole Guajardo speaking at the event

The Dean of the College of Natural and Behavioral Sciences, Dr. Nicole Guajardo gave a warm welcome to all and remarked about the importance of students taking advantage of opportunities such as the Mentorship Program to enhance their educational experience.

The Mentors come from a wide variety of known companies such as NASA, Newport News Shipbuilding, Canon, Riverside Hospital just to name a few and most hold positions such CEO and Managers in their respective fields. At the kick-off event we learned that the mentor/mentee relationship can be as formal or as informal as we see fit. A few suggested activities included conversations over coffee, a campus visit at CNU or to the Mentor’s place of business, resume critiques or even good book recommendations.


Sadie Rynestad with her new Mentor from Canon

What are the benefits of having a Mentor?  Mentors share their knowledge and experience and provide students with encouragement, insights and possible career advice.  They can provide a realistic perspective of the workplace and offer advice, knowledge, and networking tools to the student.  Not only does the Mentee benefit from this program but the Mentor can too.  For many, mentoring can offer a great satisfaction by helping a student reach their professional goals and sharing their knowledge with eager students.

The PCSE Department hopes to open this program to all PCSE students next fall.  As stated above, there are many benefits of having a professional Mentor.  You don’t want to miss the sign up next fall for this great experience!


What You Missed at Pizza My Mind


Nicole W. Baab, University Relations Coordinator, getting to know the CNU students after the seminar

Hello Captains!  Last Thursday we were lucky to have one of the largest energy providers in the world. Dominion Power presented at Pizza My Mind.  Dominion Power values its company on safety, ethics, excellence, and teamwork. They are located in 47 different locations throughout the country with their headquarters located in Richmond, Virginia.  Forbes has ranked them as one of the best places to work offering the strongest opportunities for employees.

So, what exactly does Dominion Power do?  The company is built on public service, innovation, and community involvement.  In addition to their core energy production, transportation and storage businesses, they invest in communities where we live and work.  They also practice responsible environmental stewardship wherever they are located.

Towards the end of the presentation, the representatives from Dominion shared information about internship opportunities for 77 different majors including Business, Info-Tech, Chem, and Engineering.  There are 8 states that they provide internships in and they pay their interns up to 22 dollars an hour.  75% of interns get hired to work for Dominion.  That is 190 interns per year!

Christine Simon sharing about her internship

Christine Simon , a senior, computer science major, is one of the lucky interns that got offered a job at Dominion.  She commented on all the skills she learned through her internship, “I developed a lot of skills while at Dominion.  I learned time management, how to be a good employee, and I had opportunities to work on a lot of different projects within the plant”.  Christine interned at the North Anna Nuclear Power Station her first year.  She managed the plant computer systems and worked on four different teams.  Her second year she interned at the Surry Power Station and was involved with their cyber security team.  She will continue her career at the Surry Power Station in the spring as an official employee.

If you have a 2.5 GPA or higher, start applying for a summer internship at Dominion. Applications are accepted now up until December.  8 lucky Captains had internships last year, so get out there and apply now!

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