Engineering Student Shawn Wonsmos works on U of M weather balloon project
Shawn Wonsmos, 21, of Woodbury, Minnesota, is passionate about math and science (physics in particular). Shawn followed that passion to the Engineering Fundamentals program at Inver Hills Community College. He’s working on his A.S. degree with plans to graduate spring 2015.
“Engineers use math and science to create things that were never there,” said Shawn, a 2012 graduate of Woodbury High School. “Engineers can change the world.”
“Inver is a great school. The Engineering Fundamentals program is rigorous, but affordable.” — Shawn Wonsmos
As an Inver Hills engineering student, Shawn participated in a Minnesota Space Grant Consortium BalloonSAT project with a team from the University of Minnesota. The team worked with weather balloons that operate at altitudes from 80,000 to 100,000 feet, or well into the stratosphere. They designed payloads that took readings and ran tests at altitude. One problem the team encountered was getting cameras to function when temperatures dipped to –70 °F. Shawn’s project objective centered on thermal/structure payloads.
“We had to find a material for the camera box that enabled the camera to take photos in extremely cold conditions,” said Shawn, who was involved in four balloon launches. “We had some bad luck on one launch. The balloon got stuck sixty feet high in a tree in an area that was mostly farm fields. Recovering the balloon took nearly seven hours. We had to practically cut the tree down.”
Shawn learned a lot from the BalloonSAT project, including how U of M engineers expect data to be documented and the mechanics of Arduino microcontrollers. He has shared what he’s learned with the engineering community at Inver Hills.
Minnesota Space Grant Consortium BalloonSAT project ** Photos courtesy of Shawn Wonsmos
Anand Vyas, Ph.D., the college’s Engineering Fundamentals instructor, appreciates students with Shawn’s affinity for engineering as a field. “Shawn is a very hard-working student,” Anand said. “He often goes above and beyond classroom expectations to advance his learning.”
“Engineering allows you to use your creativity, apply your problem-solving skills and help society.” — Anand Vyas, Ph.D.
“Dr. Vyas is a great teacher who really prepares you for your engineering future,” Shawn said. “He has been a huge influence on me. He is always helping everyone in his program and will set aside four or five hours of office time for individual students. He makes sure all of us are moving forward with our goals.”
When he’s not studying, or working at David’s Chophouse at Prestwick Golf Club in Woodbury, Shawn enjoys fishing, reading biographies of historical leaders and working out. After graduating from Inver Hills, he looks forward to pursuing a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering (BME) at the University of Minnesota.
“Mechanical engineers are versatile and work in almost every field,” Shawn said. “I want to design systems that control other things. I like the idea of working on energy and power—and I know some perfect energy solution is out there. My long-range goals include earning my master’s and then my Ph.D. I want to pass the Professional Engineer exam and open my own engineering firm.”
Dr. Anand Vyas encourages students interested in pursuing engineering at Inver Hills to get in touch with him to explore such opportunities. The best place to start the conversation is during Engineering Community hours each week on Wednesday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. in S134 in the Science Building.
For more information about Engineering Fundamentals at Inver Hills, contact:
Engineering, Math and Physics Instructor