Science fiction author Isaac Asimov once said “Science can amuse and fascinate us all, but it is engineering that changes the world.” Asimov and inventors like Henry Ford are inspirations for Lars Axberg, a mechanical engineering sophomore who recently received the Department of Defense (DoD) Science, Mathematics and Research for Transformation (SMART) scholarship.
Originally a chemistry major studying to become a pharmacist, Axberg changed direction after taking EGMN215, an engineering visualization design course.
“It gave me an idea of what it would be like to work on real life projects,” Axberg said, who enjoys driving and studying the mechanics of offroad vehicles in his spare time. EGMN215 prompted him to find similar projects, so Axberg joined the VCU chapters of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and the Formula Society of Automotive Engineers (FSAE).
With VCU FSAE, Axberg learned the value of teamwork and collaboration, working with others to optimize the knuckle design of their Formula vehicle. This system is the pivot point of the steering column and allows the wheels to turn. A team brainstorm session yielded many solutions for the knuckle design and Axberg helped merge those various ideas into a final product.
His academic performance and extracurricular experiences made Axberg a prime candidate to receive the DoD SMART scholarship. This distinguished award is presented to a select group of students who set themselves apart from their peers. In addition to his work with VCU FSAE, Axberg participated in the Innovative Additive Manufacturing 3D challenge with ASME, conducting research and developing ideas to re-engineer existing products and create new designs. Axberg was also part of a EGMN215 team that modeled a medieval trebuchet capable of launching a 50kg projectile 100 yards using CAD, MATLAB and Excel concepts.
As a DoD SMART Scholar, Axberg will receive full tuition to VCU for the rest of his undergraduate career, an annual stipend, summer internship and guaranteed employment after graduation. Upon completing his degree at VCU, Axberg will work on the most complex challenges at the Missile Defense Agency in Dahlgren, Virginia. “I want to continue to improve my skills while continuing to make many positive connections with people in the workforce,” Axberg said. “I have a fond interest in designing mechanical systems, whether complex or simple, that make processes easier and more efficient.”
Axberg credits Charles Cartin, Ph.D. and Manika Avasthi with his success at VCU. “Through Dr. Cartin’s class I learned the basics of design and programming, and these are skills I really value. However, I would not be able to properly communicate these skills to employers without the help from Ms. Avasthi,” Axberg said. He also credits VCU coursework and clubs for helping him find his true passion in machine design and develop skills in communication and teamwork that will benefit him after graduation.