Nicholas DeGroote, an aerospace engineering student who will graduate in the spring of 2020, has earned the honor of January Undergraduate Engineer of the Month from University of Cincinnati’s College of Engineering and Applied Science.
DeGroote’s interest in aerospace engineering developed at a young age because of a family history in aviation.
“My dad is a pilot and my grandfather was a colonel in the U.S. Air Force and a fighter pilot,” DeGroote said. “I grew up liking planes, and, because of my dad, I grew up flying radio-controlled aircraft which I think got me interested more in the engineering side of things.”
DeGroote’s first co-op at Engineering and Scientific Innovations gave him a chance to design and model new components for a water tunnel, as well as analyze data and modify code to create a way to track the velocity of particles moving through the water tunnel.
“That water tunnel gave me a valuable opportunity to visualize real-world flows even before I had taken a fluid mechanics course,” he said.
For his other co-op experience, DeGroote joined UC’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Multi-Agent Systems Technology Research (UAV MASTER) Lab where he conducted research on UAVs, which are commonly referred to as drones. DeGroote assembled and tested a variety of fixed-wing and multirotor small unmanned aerial systems, which included developing new control software. He also earned his FAA Part 107 certified UAV pilot’s license to fly autonomous vehicles for commercial and research purposes.
“UAVs and drones are everywhere in the news right now; the industry’s kind of exploding,” DeGroote said. “It’s one of the hot topics in engineering, especially in aerospace engineering. There’s a lot of opportunity to do things that we haven’t been able to do before.”
DeGroote received a $5,000 award from the University Research Council for his own project related to fixed-wing drones. He developed an algorithm that successfully decreased the space needed to autonomously take off and land fixed-wing UAVs by 77 percent. DeGroote presented the results at the Dayton Engineering Sciences Symposium in October 2018. He also served as the leader for the software component of the lab’s entry in the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International competition.
In addition to his time in the classroom and the lab, DeGroote has volunteered multiple times at the UC Science Fair and the Cincinnati Regional Science Olympiad. He’s a member of the Triangle Fraternity and has earned the rank of Eagle Scout.