Fall 2014


Sergio Gonzalez


UAV Team Leader


Sergio is a sophomore Computer Science and Engineering major at UC Merced. He joined the UAV Service Learning Team this semester for the opportunity to expand my leadership skills through the organization and management of an interdisciplinary group of students. Sergio also joined this team for the great opportunity to take part in pioneering the use of drones for scientific research at UC Merced. With a degree in computer science and engineering, he hopes to one day work with the development and advancement of artificial intelligence.


Past Experience:

  • Office Assistant-Housing and Residence Life
  • Member of AIAA at UC Merced


Viridiana Navarro


Communications Officer


Viridiana Navarro is a second year student pursuing her Bachelor’s degree as an Environmental Engineer. She has been one of the founding members of the UAV Team and still holds the position of communications officer. ​She returned back for her second semester with the team because she enjoys learning about UAV's and likes participating in project that will ultimately help local farmers in the valley with crop management. 


Tom Thayer


Imaging Team Leader


Thomas Thayer is a fourth year Mechanical Engineering and Computer Science and Engineering major. He is one of the founding members of the UAV Engineering Service Learning team at UC Merced, and joined the team to gain professional experience in the design process and to hopefully make an impact on the use of UAVs in the commercial and scientific world. He enjoys taking things apart to learn how they work and tinkering with components to improve their performance. In the future, Thomas hopes to involve himself in the fields of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics.

Past Experience:

  • Works in I.T. at UC Merced
  • Programming in various languages


Justin O’Rourke


Platform Team Leader


Justin who is a senior who pursues a Mechanical Engineering degree, writes:

“I joined so i can share my experiences working with electronics to my fellow students. I also hope to get better educated with UAV possibilities and integration with other fields besides Mechanical Engineering. My hope for my future career is to focus on UAV/Robotic platforms for either civilian uses or for Military uses. However i have experience with electrical vehicle research and micro grid integration into a power grid to offset peak usage so a job in optimizing electrical car impact is also a interest.”


Past Experience:

  • AIAA
  • Machine Shop Assistant


Walter Vasquez


SAC Officer/Webmaster


Walter is a senior Mechanical Engineering major. He joined the UAV team to become a professional. He hopes to achieve this goal by taking on more tasks and completing them in best manner. Walter has always been interesting in building things and watching them work. His curiosity sparks his imagination which helps him find simple solutions to complicated problems.


Past Experience:

  • AIAA at UC Merced’s secretary
  • Machine Shop Assistant [2 years of experience]
  • CAD and CAM programming


Christopher Reps


Deputy Leader


Chris is a freshman Material Science Engineering major at UC Merced. He really enjoyed the experience in robotics at his high school and wanted to continue on that path. In addition to that Chris wanted to gain relevant engineering experience and work on a team. In his future, Chris would like to create and discover new materials and possibly start his own company down the line.


Past Experience:

  • Participated in school announcements
  • Glean SLO
  • High School’s robotics team
  • Worked for MeatHead Movers


Phoskrit Manikalak


Inventory and Finance Officer


Phoskrit is a sophomore Mechanical Engineering major. He joined the UAV Service Learning Team in hopes to gain professionalism, research UAV's, and grow as a leader. Phoskrit also find drones fun to play with. Joining the team would allow him to design and fly UAVs. It is without doubt that Phoskrit will gain knowledge about drones and grow professionally under the UAV Service Learning Team.


Avery Berchek


Imaging Team Member


Avery is a freshmen interested in a Bioengineering major. He writes:

“UAV's are becoming a very popular term nowadays, and I wanted to be a part of a leading technology. However, this is not any old UAV team, this team is creating an autonomous drone to help out farmers. I wanted to learn more about engineering and help people, and this UAV team fits that description perfectly, so I joined!” He plans to work on robotics mechanisms that help people.


Patrick Thavornkant


Imaging Team Member


As a senior at UC Merced, Patrick works on his Computer Science and Engineering major. He shares with us:

“As a part of the requirements to graduate, I figured this team would be the most interesting to participate in. It's pretty much the only team where I felt I could flex a bit of the Computer Science knowledge I've gained over my years at UC Merced. For starters, a nice paying job that lets me use some of my CS knowledge would be great. Later down the line, I think I would be interested in joining a game development company of sorts.”


Past Experience:

  • 2011-2012 UC Merced Anime Club Secretary
  • 2014 Spring: Mobile App Challenge Participant [Project: On Tilt]


Francis Espiritu


Imaging Team Member


Francis plans to obtain his Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science and Engineering. He joined the UAV team because he always found the drones to be very interesting. It reminds him a lot of the RC vehicles he would play with as a child, but on a grander scale with limitless applications.


Eric Harmon


Imaging Team Member


Erick is a senior Mechanical Engineering major, whom writes:

“UAVs are at the forefront of technology in the Central Valley and all around the world, and the ability to work hands-on with them will be awesome.”


Past Experience:

  • Business Society [Finance Team]


Cesar Ramos


Platform Team Member


Cesar is a junior Mechanical Engineering major. He joined the team because he wanted to gain experience with UAVs. Cesar interest is in the aerospace and defense industry. He hopes to work in that field once he graduates from school.


Past Experience:

  • Co-founder of Ingenieros Unidos [a SHPE chapter]
  • ICC representative


Joseph Kotlarek


Imaging Team Member


Joseph is a freshman Computer Science and Engineering major at UC Merced. Chris Butler gave a great speech at the ASCEND conference, featuring the experience and professional skills Joseph stand to gain by involving himself in this program. He intends to get his master’s degree in a field related to CSE, and enter the workforce in the lucrative field of software development.


Adrian Jose Hernandez


Intellectual Property Officer


Adrian is a senior Mechanical Engineering major. The reason why he joined this service learning team was to further his knowledge in Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. Adrian hopes to get a career in the Automotive Industry.


Past Experience:

  • Hermanos Unidos de la UC Merced
  • The Society of Women Engineers
  • Theta Tau


Professor YangQuan Chen


UAV Team Advisor


YangQuan Chen received the B.S. in industrial automation from the University of Science and Technology of Beijing, China, in 1985, the M.S. in automatic control from the Beijing Institute of Technology, in 1989, and the Ph.D. degree in advanced control and instrumentation from theNanyang Technological University, Singapore, in 1998. He was the control systems/mechatronics faculty of ECE Dept. at Utah State University, Logan, and the Director of the Center for Self-Organizing and Intelligent Systems (CSOIS) before joining the University of California, Merced in Fall 2012. (GoogleScholar) [publication]


Duval Johnson


Graduate Student Co-Advisor


Aaron Cowles


ESL's Teaching Assistant


Tiebiao Zhao


Graduate Student Co-Advisor


Tiebiao Zhao received the B.S. in Automation from Yantai University, China, in 2009, and the M.S. in Automation from University of Science and Technology of China in 2012. Now, he is pursuing the Ph.D. degree in UC Merced. He is interested in fractional calculus, model predictive control and their applications in industry process control. He is the builder for the gen-4 RIOTS now running on Win 8 MATLAB mex64. Most recently, his focus is on scientific data-drone research within the CPS (cyber-physical systems) framework.