JULY 2021 m4 NEWSLETTER
HAPPY SUMMER FROM M4!
20th Anniversary Party
As the vaccine becomes more readily available, we at M4 look forward to getting together and resuming our monthly “M4 on Fire” company barbecues with a very special M4 20th Anniversary Party.
This month, we plan to celebrate M4’s accomplishments with a fun-filled night/day packed with delicious food, contests, karaoke, and maybe a few surprises! Our team looks forward to spending this much-needed quality time together and toasting to our accomplishments as a community and to M4’s future.
Want to join us? We’re inviting all of M4’s employees, customers, partners, and their families to our anniversary celebration on Friday, August 20th. There will be lots of food, games, and a few surprises! Please RSVP with the link below and we’ll send you more details soon. We’re looking forward to seeing you!
Vertical Flight Society (VFS) Recognizes M4’s 20th Anniversary in Vertiflite Magazine
M4 is a corporate member of VFS and has been involved in both regional and National events over the years.
As part of M4’s 20th anniversary activities, VFS has graciously published an article in the most recent edition of Vertiflite Magazine.
In addition, VFS’s President Mike Hirschberg visited M4’s Long Beach and Signal Hill facilities in June to see M4 in operation and meet some members of our growing team.
M4 is also currently helping establish a SoCal VFS chapter that will focus on workforce development, supporting STEM and growing the traditional VTOL, Advanced and Regional Air Mobility and Electric Aircraft ecosystem. If you would like to learn more about this, or join the chapter please contact M4 or VFS for more information https://vtol.org/contact-us.
To learn more about M4’s transformation from a small aerospace R&D startup to a valued contributor for many aerospace, defense, alternative energy, and other projects, please check out the “The Fixer” article.
Product Spotlight: HEEDS MDO
HEEDS software is an MDO solution offered by Siemens PLM Software that helps you automate the design exploration process and drive innovation through optimal implementation of your modeling and computer-aided engineering (CAE) tools.
Modeling and simulation software provides an excellent way for designers and engineers to cost-effectively evaluate how their products will perform under expected operating conditions. Improving the performance of designs can be a tedious, manual, time-consuming process. With increasing product complexity, identifying what changes to make to improve performance relies more on trial and error than on an efficient systematic approach. HEEDS provides an environment that assists in discovering better designs, faster. It tackles these challenges by automating your analysis process, leveraging your investment in computing hardware, efficiently searching for better performing solutions and providing intuitive ways to review the design performance. Even engineers with very little design optimization experience can use HEEDS to discover optimal designs.
HEEDS includes a proprietary design exploration tool, known as SHERPA, that is used to simultaneously leverage multiple global and local search strategies. HEEDS adapts the search strategy as it learns more about the design space. It requires no search algorithm expertise on the part of the user, but easily incorporates user intuition through its collaborative search capabilities. This process allows you to identify higher performing families of designs with minimal simulation time and cost. Unlike with other design space exploration methodologies, HEEDS works well with any number of design variables, constraints, or objectives. Thus, the user is encouraged to set up the design study to reflect the exact engineering challenge being faced, rather than simplifying the search to conform to software limitations. HEEDS is regularly applied to problems with hundreds or thousands of design variables without difficulty.
In summary, HEEDS is a powerful software package that automates the design space exploration process. With revolutionary search strategies available only in HEEDS, you can uncover new design concepts that improve products and significantly reduce development costs. HEEDS offers many advantages to its users, including the following:
Open Positions: M4 Wants You!
Aerospace Wire Harness Design Engineer
M4 has an immediate need for an engineer or skilled technician with experience designing electrical wire harnesses. We’re looking for someone who is comfortable taking a design from handdrawn sketch all the way to final “for production” drawings.
Aerospace Structural Engineer
A structural analysis engineer is needed to perform structural analysis for aircraft components. This individual will have primary responsibility for structural analysis tasks throughout the design process. Click the link below to read more about this position.
monthly webinar series
Star CCM+ Automate Efficiently
Become more effective with complex model handling: 5x faster when modeling geometries with 1000s of parts
A can’t miss webinar:
– Easily import, create, modify and prepare geometry
– Robust and automated process from CAD to mesh
– State-of-the art meshing technologies
When: Thursday, July 29th at 9:30 a.m. PT
Thermal Modeling – Maximize Existing Environments & Processes
Differentiating Value To Tackle Complex Designs Why Attend?
– Predictive engineering analytics
– Lower your Developmental Costs
– Use design exploration with simulation to drive innovation – Simulate early and often in the design cycle
When: Wednesday, August 18th at 9:30 a.m. PT
Simulation for Designers: How Can You Empower 3D CAE for CAD Engineering?
Create better products with earlier insights for faster innovation and higher ROI!
Have you experienced any of these obstacles?
– Simulation is too time-consuming
– We don’t trust a designer to deliver accurate simulation results
– Designers aren’t trained in simulation techniques
– Reduce the need for physical prototypes
– Reduce costs
– Speed up the development process
When: Thursday, September 22nd at 9:30 a.m. PT
Company Culture: M4 Origin Story Part 3 – Expanding Our Testing Abilities
During the Great Recession, times were tough for small businesses. Luckily, M4 Engineering was able to stir up more business than ever. The years between 2011 and 2016 resulted in a fruitful era for M4, where we worked on wind tunnels, signed many crucial government contracts, and hired new people to join our hard-working team of engineers.
One of the biggest areas of growth at M4 was in our testing. We gained experience in many areas of testing including aircraft, wind turbines, and in wind tunnels, which was a particularly big project for M4.
“There’s a lot of things we learned about testing [at this time],” Senior Engineer Dan Stuewe said. During these years at M4, we were just starting to delve into what would be a crucial part of M4’s work. In fact, at the time, we had to use our customers’ facilities to conduct testing. Now, five years later, we have our own full testing site in Signal Hill.
Alongside the wind tunnel testing, M4 got a few government contracts to work on store trajectory projection. The engineers at M4 developed techniques and eventually wrote software to generate more accurate data for future wind tunnel tests. We also worked closely with Florida State University on these wind tunnel tests, which was the start of a relationship we still hold to this day. We still do work on wind tunnel testing to this day, but we gained much-needed experience during this time.
“Most everything else [was] just more of what M4 had always been: doing government research, coming into commercial work when help was needed,” Dan Stuewe said. “But this was where we were actually touching the final product and seeing it through – not just analysis – but also that important phase of testing.”
M4 was able to not only able to grow the company but also gained some of the most beneficial clients & partners we’ve had. One of the most significant clients from this time was Woodward.
Starting in 2013, M4 helped develop the A320neo, which was Airbus’s new & improved small commercial airliner. M4 & Woodward collaborated on analyzing the plane’s Thrust Reverser Actuation Systems, or TRAS.
“We were still feeling the effects of [the Great Recession],” Dan said. “All of these government contracts were really keeping us going.”
The work with Woodward would last for a couple of years. Dan Stuewe, who worked closely with the company, commented that he believes every employee at M4 worked on the contract with Woodward at some point in time.
Another great achievement for M4 was when we gained six employees in one year – 2014. We still have several of these fantastic engineers to this day. 2014 was a particularly busy year including setting up a wind turbine monitoring system, conducted aircraft testing, and started a project called Physics Based Weight, or PBWeight. PBWeight was a government contract that has now become a software package we still use to this day. With it, our engineers use this tool to create the geometry of a plane, which can give you the weight, range, and efficiency of a theoretical plane.
For our commercial work, we worked with various companies like Ogin, where we designed the prototype for a new style of wind turbine, Aquila, which was Facebook’s effort to build an airplane meant to give people access to WiFi, and Vacco, where we helped make valves for aerospace.
Dan Stuewe believes M4 had so much business thanks to our CEO & President Dr. Myles Baker, who he said has a great skill at writing proposals for government contracts in a short amount of time.
“Myles is just the monster when it comes to getting business,” Dan jokingly said. “He’ll just seemingly regularly just pound them out in a day and he’ll win them,” he said.
Thanks to all of the new work & employees, Scott Young & Tyler Winter were promoted to their current positions as Engineering Services & IT Manager and Research & Development Manager, respectively.
“That was a big step to expand our organization [and] to improve our ability to deal with all of these different, diverse projects,” Dan said.
With all of the new government contracts and by starting plenty of new commercial projects, M4 was able to prosper despite the Recession. We were able to explore new areas of engineering thanks to our new work in testing, which has proved to be a critical addition to M4’s portfolio. Though we had mastered design & analysis, getting more projects in testing proved to be a huge – and important – sign of growth for M4.
Client Spotlight: AeroVironment & Ingenuity
As a continuation of M4’s 20th anniversary celebration, we wanted to showcase our customer AeroVironment, which is celebrating its 50th year of operation!
The story of AeroVironment begins with the brilliant mind of founder Dr. Paul MacCready, Jr. Born in 1925, it was evident MacCready would become an innovator from an early age; at just 15 years old he won a national contest for building a model plane.
After receiving his Ph.D. in aeronautics from CalTech in 1952, MacCready began accomplishing the impossible. He designed and built the first human-powered aircraft to win the Kremer prize, which had been offered up 18 years prior. MacCready went on to win the second Kremer prize for the first human-powered aircraft crossing of the English Channel, a feat that would establish his nickname as “the father of flight.” Arguably his greatest accomplishment was founding AeroVironment in 1971, which has maintained a position at the forefront of innovation even after MacCready’s retirement through projects ranging from the first solar-powered race car to robotic replicas of flying dinosaurs.
AeroVironment may have a large history of firsts, but none are as groundbreaking as the work completed in conjunction with M4 Engineering on NASA’s Ingenuity, a helicopter that completed the first-ever powered, controlled flight in the extremely thin atmosphere of Mars. In partnership with AeroVironment’s design, manufacturing, and testing efforts, M4 Engineering simulated and analyzed the effects of the extraterrestrial environment to ensure Ingenuity’s solar-panel substrate would function correctly, allowing the vehicle to gather enough power for flight.
Benjamin Pipenberg, AeroVironment’s Engineering Lead on the Mars Ingenuity Helicopter Program, commented, “M4’s expertise in structural analysis and validation methods proved to be critical during the development of Ingenuity’s solar array substrate. Having M4’s staff embedded with the development team allowed us to rapidly iterate to an optimized structural solution with a high degree of confidence.”
This mission’s success represents a significant milestone in aerospace technology and opens new doors for exploration on how future rovers and aerial explorers can work together. M4 Engineering looks forward to continuing our partnership with AeroVironment to continue supporting their innovative work.
Employee Spotlight: Kevin Roughen
As we continue to put a spotlight on our hardworking employees at M4, this quarter we’re focusing on M4’s Vice President of Engineering, Dr. Kevin Roughen. Kevin has been at the core of the engineering team for over 15 years. Joining M4 in 2005 as a Director, he eventually gained more responsibilities in 2008 when Dr. Myles Baker pursued Modular Wind Energy.
Kevin said he was “very excited for the opportunity” and, while it was challenging at first, he appreciated having the chance to work at M4 on a higher level. He also made sure to credit Tyler Winter and Scott Young for being great teammates as they each took on bigger responsibilities around the same time.
As the Vice President of M4, Kevin’s duties vary from day to day, including coordinating staffing, writing proposals for new work, working programs, and doing technical engineering work. However, what Kevin especially enjoys is communicating results to M4’s customers. After spending time on a difficult problem at work, Kevin appreciates presenting solutions to clients “that [are] really going to help them make a decision about their work [or] about their business that is going to push them in a better direction.”
Over the years, Kevin has worked on many different projects for M4, but when asked about the project he remembered the most he pointed toward the X47-B project, which was M4’s first big commercial job. Kevin recalled how the project was entirely new territory for the company, as M4 had the opportunity to work alongside many different organizations.
“Even though that area was a little bit new to us, we were able to draw on what we knew from some of our other technical areas and, in the end, come up with a good work product that was received by a very discriminating audience,” he said. “It was that much more exciting … because it was so new to M4.”
Outside of the engineering aspect of M4, Kevin emphasized that he thoroughly appreciates the team he has at M4.
“I’ve been fortunate in my career to work with a lot of very smart and also pleasant-to-deal-with people,” Kevin said. “I feel like, at M4, I’m really happy with the team that we have now. We’ve seen it grow over the years and there’s definitely a lot of folks that I’ve felt I’ve had a good relationship with and enjoy being around.”
Transitioning to working from home, Kevin noted M4 remained agile and increased its presence with some of its biggest customers. Thanks to video conferencing (we use BlueJeans!), Kevin was happy we were still able to keep our clients throughout the tumultuous pandemic. “We were pretty fortunate to have some of the business we had when COVID-19 hit,” he said.
However, one of the biggest things Kevin missed has been the water-cooler moments he had with his co-workers, saying he’s “really looking forward to getting back to [seeing co-workers face-to-face].”
On the weekends, Kevin enjoys spending time with his wife, Sabrina. They especially like watching TV shows and movies when they have the chance. A fan of the outdoors, Kevin also likes to exercise by hiking and surfing. However, he’s definitely looking forward to having the chance to visit his friends once the pandemic is over.
Just For Fun: Engineering Projects with the Family
It’s finally summertime, which means kids are out of school and we can spend more time outdoors. Need inspiration on how to entertain your families during the hot months of the summer? All you need is a few household items lying around the house and you can turn your kids into little engineers.
Our own Myles Baker would make DIY trebuchets with his family to celebrate the 4th of July with just a few PVC pipes (and a potato, of course!). Here are a few DIY projects using household objects you can make with your family.
- Build a Pyramid Catapult to launch objects straight into the air with just popsicle sticks, tape, and skewers.
- Or, you can make a Pyramid Slingshot, which uses rubber bands to launch small objects.
- Have a few straws and rubber bands? Maybe try to make a Straw Rocket! It might not be as complicated as the rocket parts we make at M4, but it’ll definitely entertain the kids!
- Ready, set, go! Host your own racing competition by making your own cars! Here’s a Gliding Car, which can glide in the air after being launched from a table. Or, here’s a Sail Car, which moves when you blow air on its sail.
- Don’t throw away that empty water bottle! You can make a Rocket Launcher with just a PVC pipe! You can also get creative and print out paper rockets for your kids to customize with their own decorations.