College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

Toby Cruz: NASA intern, Air Force ROTC cadet, civil engineering student

Civil engineering senior Toby Cruz interned for NASA in summer 2014.
Civil engineering senior Toby Cruz interned for NASA in summer 2014.

Civil engineering senior Toby Cruz has experienced a notable internship and extracurricular activities while pursuing his bachelor’s degree at Iowa State University.

Soon after completing final exams in December 2013, Cruz completed a NASA internship application and gathered faculty recommendations within one weekend. One month later, NASA offered him two internships during summer 2014. He accepted the Rotorcraft Aeromechanics internship, held at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif.

Cruz learned that he was one of 50 students, chosen from about 5,000 applicants nationwide, to pursue the NASA internship. He also learned that he was the only civil engineering major in a group of aerospace engineering and mechanical engineering majors. Six Iowa State students were chosen.

The Aeromechanics Branch, within NASA’s Aeronautics Office at Ames Research Center, conducts research activities that directly support civil competitiveness of the U.S. helicopter industry and the vertical lift requirements of the Department of Defense.

NASA tasked Cruz to produce solutions for an aircraft air intrusion problem at Ames Research Center. Problems arose when air blast from NASA airplanes and helicopters intruded from the tarmac to adjacent buildings. Cruz worked with engineers and state-of-the-art software to propose three solutions: 1) plant trees to slow down air blasts between the tarmac and area buildings, 2) build blast walls to deflect air blasts, and 3) reorient aircraft on the tarmac so air blasts would intrude on non-building areas. “It was rewarding to solve practical problems with a NASA research team — beyond the textbooks,” Cruz said.

Cruz also is a cadet squadron commander at Iowa State’s Air Force ROTC. This role has helped Cruz develop strong leadership skills, communication, and professionalism. He said the Air Force ROTC has guided him to aeronautical interests within civil engineering: “I determine the structures of aircraft design, spacecraft design, and composites used within those structures.”

Cruz was born and raised in Guam. While he grew up, education and society encouraged students to pursue engineering, particularly civil engineering. In 2012 he moved to Iowa State to pursue a civil engineering degree. “I see my life as an unfinished puzzle. The puzzle is unclear now, but as I collect the right pieces, everything will fit and make sense,” Cruz said.