Meet the Grads, Matteo Cerasoli: The sky’s the limit
During his freshman year, Matteo Cerasoli of Charles Town, went all in on participating in student organizations to help him discover the right career path at West Virginia University.
Story by Brittany Furbee, Communications Specialist
“I chose WVU’s Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources because of how many possibilities I saw here,” said Cerasoli. “I knew coming in that I wanted to do some form of engineering and initially I was choosing between the dual mechanical aerospace engineering degree and a dual computer electrical engineering degree. I saw WVU’s size and resources as a great opportunity to really dive right in and find what I want to do.”
Within his first two weeks as a student at the Statler College, Cerasoli joined the WVU Experimental Rocketry club and Amateur Radio Club.
The WVU Experimental Rocketry club is open to all majors interested in learning everything there is to know about rockets, from designing them to executing a successful launch. On the flip side, the Amateur Radio Club focuses on teaching students the ins-and-outs of radio frequency and wireless communications.
“After spending my first year doing some research, I determined that it was more affordable to make electronics projects as a hobby than it was to build satellites and rockets, so I went with a dual major in mechanical and aerospace engineering,” said Cerasoli.
Although he had decided on a career path, Cerasoli knew he wanted to remain active in both clubs. As a member of the WVU Experimental Rocketry club, he was able to compete in the annual Spaceport America Cup, an international collegiate rocketry competition. Each year, teams from around the world travel to Las Cruces, New Mexico to compete in the 10K or 30K categories of the competition, which challenges teams to build a rocket that can reach either 10,000 feet or 30,000 feet altitude while remaining intact.
During his sophomore year, Cerasoli served as the avionics and telemetry lead for the WVU Experimental Rocketry team. This meant he was responsible for configuring the rocket with electronics that could track their rocket once it made its descent, as rockets can frequently drift several miles out of view.
His early involvement with the WVU Experimental Rocketry club and team led him to land a summer internship in 2021 at NASA Langley Research Center through the NASA Academy Program. He was selected as one of 23 interns from around the country to work on a project that utilized NASA technology to improve the United States' wildfire fighting infrastructure.
This internship proved to be a valuable resource, not only for Cerasoli, but also for the WVU Experimental Rocketry Team.
Following the internship, Cerasoli, who had served as president for the Experimental Rocketry club the year prior, was selected as the payload team lead for the 2021-2022 competition year.
“The idea that the team had for that year was named ScatterSat, a concept the team and I came up with based off what I learned at my NASA Langley internship,” Cerasoli. “The concept was for atmospheric data collection where a number of small sensor nodes are deployed from the rocket during descent, collecting atmospheric data as they descend and sending back tracking information to a ground station. A system like this could be used after natural or manmade disasters to measure atmospheric pollutant levels by generating a 3D map of their descent pattern with the information of interest highlighted.”
The integration of the knowledge he learned during his NASA internship lead Cerasoli and his teammates to a second-place finish at the 2022 Spaceport America Cup.
“This was the team’s first ever time placing and the first fully functional scientific payload submission to the competition,” said Cerasoli. “That year, the team also won 1st place in the 30K category and third overall out of all the competing teams. It was definitely a very exciting moment for myself and the rest of the team, and one of the most memorable moments I’ve had here at Statler. Nothing ever beats the feeling of seeing a project come to fruition.”
Although the WVU Experimental Rocketry club kept him busy, Cerasoli found time to remain involved in the WVU Amateur Radio Club throughout his time at WVU.
“The WVU Amateur Radio Club was fortunately a bit more relaxed than the rocketry team,” said Cerasoli. “We focused on all aspects of wireless communication, whether it be teaching students about the science and physics behind radio waves, assisting in relevant research projects regarding radio frequencies, maintaining emergency communications equipment in Morgantown, helping out with bike races or parade communications around the state or competing in amateur radio contests with other universities to see who can talk to the most people in the shortest amount of time.”
One of the activities he looked forward to most was teaching the Tech-in-a-Day course, a one-day course where WVU Amateur Radio Club members teach other students the information they need to know to pass the introductory amateur radio license exam.
“TIAD was where I began to realize how much I enjoyed teaching material I was passionate about and is one of the main places where I gained most of my experience as a presenter and speaker,” Cerasoli. “It's one thing I’ll miss a lot when I graduate.”
Through his involvement with both organizations, Cerasoli was awarded three consecutive research proposals by the NASA West Virginia Space Grant Consortium. The grants consisted of $1,000 of funding to pursue proposed research plans.
“My third and final funded project, titled ‘Ionospheric Propagation Through the Use of Sounding Rockets’ was accepted for presentation at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics’ Young Professionals, Students and Educators conference this past fall,” said Cerasoli. “I was able to attend and was awarded best undergraduate presentation. These research grants were a great addition to the other work I’ve completed at Statler.”
The accolades Cerasoli received as a member of the WVU Experimental Rocketry team, coupled with the experience he gained from working with the WVU Amateur Radio Club, ended up being a major contributing factor when it came to applying for full-time engineering positions.
“During an interview, my future supervisors and coworkers were most impressed with my work on the competition design teams and research grants and projects I’d worked on,” said Cerasoli. “From that end, the hands-on experience at WVU was absolutely what I feel prepared me the most for the world of engineering.”
After graduation, Cerasoli will start a new position as an applied technologies and threat analysis engineer at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, Maryland.
“I encourage other students to dive into extracurricular activities and research projects” said Cerasoli. “If you’ve heard of research a professor is doing that interests you, or if you want to learn more about a course they teach, stop by their office and ask! I’ve never met anyone at WVU, student or faculty, who wasn’t excited to talk about their work, and even more so when a student wants to learn more.”
Cerasoli has come a long way and achieved a lot during his time at the Statler College, but that wouldn’t have been possible without a healthy dose of curiosity and his strong desire to keep learning.
“Everyone recognizes that as a freshman your experience will be limited, and nobody expects you to be a master of every engineering topic when you’re a first-time student,” said Cerasoli. “In Rocketry we always tell prospective members that we can teach you anything but interest. If you want to learn, we are here to teach you, and that’s a sentiment that I’ve found exists throughout the Statler College. I want to personally show my appreciation for all of the faculty, professors, administration and my peers who I’ve worked with and who’ve helped me throughout my time here at Statler. I say very seriously and with no understatement that I wouldn’t have made it through to the end without you.”
Contact: Paige Nesbit
Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
304.293.4135, Paige Nesbit
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