Two Wahlert Catholic grads, Rachel Schmerbach ’16 and Nick Moran ’17, are both currently attending Iowa State University and studying Aerospace Engineering.  Recently, the pair worked together on a biplane project for competition.  Here, Rachel and Nick talk about their experience at the SAE Aero Design Competition, internships they’re undertaking, and their experiences at Wahlert that led them to begin their journeys.


The SAE Aero Design Competition is a national competition that challenges participating teams to conceive, design, fabricate, and test a radio controlled aircraft that can take off, land, and optimally meet the mission requirements. Rachel and Nick have both been on a team for the past two years. During the fall, they worked on the design and technical report for their aircraft, and in the spring they focused on the manufacturing. At this year’s competition in early April week they had the opportunity to travel to California to compete.

“It was a great experience getting to compete with our plane and see what all of the other teams came up with. Our design stood out as the only biplane of the competition. We were able to pass tech inspection, present our design and manufacturing process, and fly our aircraft,” explained Nick.



Rachel: Last summer, I interned at the Boeing Company in Everett Washington. I worked on a project in product development. It was a great opportunity to get industry experience and learn a lot about Boeing and see a lot of the products and assembly lines. This summer, I will be returning to Boeing in Everett where I will be a structures engineering intern on the 777X project working with static testing of the wings. I’m excited to return and apply what I have been learning in classes to my internship.

Nick: This summer I will be interning with Collins Aerospace in Cedar Rapids in a Systems Engineering position. I expect to be completing tasks related to coding to automate testing procedures for the avionics Collins designs. I’m really excited about this opportunity to learn more and begin to apply what I have learned to more real-world situations.


Wahlert Preparation

Rachel: During my time at Wahlert, I was able to take lots of classes that have helped me at Iowa State. The Project Lead the Way (PLTW), college physics, and calculus courses offered at Wahlert exposed me to some of the material covered in classes at Iowa State. I was able to go into classes with a good understanding of concepts and built on them, instead of learning them for the first time during class. Taking AP and dual-credit classes helped me to get credit for some required classes for my major and use the extra room in my schedule to take additional classes and have more time for club involvement on campus. At Wahlert, I was also involved with the First Tech Challenge (FTC) team. This team project experience has helped me in many classes with group projects and on the SAE Aero Design team. It provided me experiences with the engineering design process and working on a long term project.

Nick: While at Wahlert, I had lots of great opportunities to learn about some of the basics behind engineering. Some of these included the Project Lead the Way (PLTW) courses, First Tech Challenge (FTC), and the advanced math and science classes. The PLTW classes provided a great chance for me to learn about the various types of engineering and what they entail. I didn’t realize it then, but the topics covered in the courses provided a great base for me to build off of when the topics came back in college. Also, my involvement with FTC gave me a great introduction to the ideas behind coding and problem solving, breaking up a problem into small manageable chunks. In college engineering programs, coding is becoming a major part of the curriculum. Having a basic understanding of coding has been invaluable in learning more complex concepts and writing more significant codes. In addition, the understanding of problem-solving techniques has helped me a lot in both Aero Design along with other class projects. Finally, the opportunity to take more advanced math and science classes like Calculus 1 and 2 and Physics have been very helpful to my performance in the classes in college. Also, thanks to taking these classes along with several other AP classes I am about a half semester ahead and now have the opportunity to add a minor or even second major without significantly increasing my time in college.

Rachel Schmerbach ’16 is a junior in Aerospace Engineering at Iowa State, expecting to graduate in May 2020 with a bachelor’s degree.

Nick Moran ’17 is a sophomore in Aerospace Engineering at Iowa State and expects to graduate in May 2021 with a Bachelor’s degree.