AFRL engineer named luminary honoree by Hispanic engineer org

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif.  — The 2015 Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Awards Corporation is recognizing a member of Team Edwards. 1st Lt. Arcenio Muniz, Air Force Research Laboratory, will be named one of the luminary honorees at the upcoming 27th Annual HENAAC Career Conference happening Oct. 14-18 in Pasadena, California. This year’s theme is “Ignite, Inspire.”

Muniz is the executive officer for the Rocket Propulsion Division, Aerospace Systems Directorate, AFRL.

He will receive his award during the Salute to National Defense event Oct. 15 at the Pasadena Convention Center. He will also receive complimentary VIP conference registration granting him access to over 50 seminars, the awards show and after party and more.

Each year, Great Minds in STEM (GMiS) identifies and showcases the achievements of the nation’s most talented engineers and scientists within the Hispanic community. STEM refers to the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

This year there are 19 STEM role models being recognized that represent professionals from industry, government, military and academic institutions. They are being honored for their efforts leading, collaborating and initiating key programs and research within their organizations.

“This is just another example where the amazing and talented individuals we have in the lab continue to accomplish great things for the warfighter and stand out amongst their peers on a national level,” said Maj. Gen. Thomas Masiello, Air Force Research Laboratory commander.

Muniz enlisted in the Air Force eight years ago and went into the nuclear missile maintenance career field. He was stationed at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, doing nuclear cruise missile maintenance when the education office encouraged him to apply for the Airman Education and Commissioning Program.

Through that program he was able to earn a degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Central Florida. Following graduation he completed officer training school and came to Edwards in 2013.

He was assigned to the Experimental Demonstrations Branch of the Aerospace Systems Directorate where he worked as a rocket test engineer on solid rocket motor systems.

When a customer came in to test a rocket motor system, Muniz’s team would handle the facility configuration and test stand build-up, then conduct the test operating procedure.

“Our facility is very configurable for different sizes of rocket motors. So when someone gives us specs we go out and basically design our facility to that specification,” said Muniz.

One of those customers, Aerojet Rocketdyne, has done several tests during Muniz’s time as a rocket test engineer. He had a major hand in authoring the test procedure for an Atlas V solid rocket booster that was being qualified for a new nozzle material. On another one of their projects, LEONIDAS, they conducted testing to qualify a new three-stage propulsion system to launch nano-satellites into sun-synchronous orbit.

Muniz’s dream job is to work in space lift activities.

“I grew up in Florida so I would watch countless space shuttle launches, rocket launches from Cape Canaveral,” he said. “I was always fascinated by it. Everything I’ve done in the Air Force and even now has been aimed at getting into space lift activities… I’m still trying to get there.”

While he pursues his career goals, Muniz hopes to encourage as many young people as he can to pursue STEM fields.

“Depending on what you want to do, the opportunities in STEM are endless. I would say at least at the middle school and high school age, take some of those classes. Take some science and math classes outside of what’s prescribed to you and see what you really like, see what you get into.”

As a Puerto Rican American, Muniz grew up in a “very Hispanic household.”

“I definitely have that culture engrained… my parents would speak Spanish all the time,” Muniz recalled.

“We need a lot of students involved in STEM. We’re falling behind in terms of where we rank in other countries in terms of STEM engagement. The Hispanic community is a big part of that. Especially with their growing numbers we need to get as many people interested as we can.”

Muniz encourages students to enter STEM fields by volunteering at local STEM-related school functions. He has organized trips for the Air Force Junior Force Council to places like Northrop Grumman in Los Angeles, to see satellite and air superiority technologies, and to Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, to view a Delta IV rocket launch.

He participated in the first annual Desert Christian High School career fair where he promoted the benefits of STEM careers to young Hispanic students. And at Quartz Hill High School’s first annual STEM expo, he judged over 30 projects. At Eastside High School’s “Ahora” student day he explained the benefits of STEM careers in the Air Force and other civilian organizations.

“This [luminary award] is about the young men and women involved in STEM programs. Without these bright young minds, and their willingness to tackle the great STEM challenges that lay before us, people like me and the countless other STEM volunteers would be without purpose.”

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