Noble Knight Gutierrez ’22 loves tackling complex challenges while encouraging other Aggies to dream big. The mechanical engineering major has enjoyed a number of memorable experiences during his time at Texas A&M University. He has played a key role in two winning Aggie Invent teams and the Aggies Against COVID-19 team design competition, chaired the Craig and Galen Brown Engineering Honors Executive Committee, and served in leadership roles in the Residential Housing Association—all while maintaining a 4.0 GPA.
Louise and James “Jim” Milliken ’60 would be proud to see that their scholarship is supporting such a cutting-edge thinker and leader. This scholarship is one of three that Louise created in memory of Jim, an exploration geophysicist and oil industry executive who focused on emerging international oil basins for Humble (Exxon) Oil Company and Pennzoil. The Milliken scholarships—which include an Aggie Leader Scholarship (which supports Gutierrez), a General Rudder Corps Scholarship and an Endowed Opportunity Award—were funded through a bequest in Louise’s estate to the Texas A&M Foundation.
Gutierrez credits homeschooling for sparking his deep passion for STEM areas. “Being homeschooled allowed me the flexibility to focus on what appealed to me and what I wanted to learn,” he said. “My early focus was on the arts, but then it transitioned to math and science.”
As a high school sophomore, Gutierrez discovered his passion for calculus, which opened the academic door to physics and engineering. “I took dual credit classes at my community college and maxed out all of the STEM classes I could take there,” he said. “I went all the way through differential equations and linear algebra.”
The Carrollton, Texas, resident was drawn to Texas A&M because of its renowned engineering program. He is using his academic experience to explore diverse areas to deepen his knowledge, enhance his skills and extend his experiences while also carrying a full course load. “Saying ‘yes’ allows me to engage in a lot more opportunities, make more connections and really engage myself fully in campus life,” Gutierrez explained. “That’s been my mentality throughout college.”
As a sophomore, Gutierrez became an undergraduate research assistant/student technician at Texas A&M Engineering’s Turbomachinery Lab. In this role, he assists in designing innovative equipment, modeling parts and conducting experiments. “I love designing things and seeing their real-world result, including how people will use them for the betterment of themselves and others,” he said.
After being recognized as a Gathright Phi Kappa Phi Dean’s Excellence Award Honorable Mention at the end of his freshman year, Gutierrez joined the prestigious Grand Challenge Scholars Program as a sophomore. This three-year commitment provides selected students with leading-edge skills and knowledge to assist them in developing innovative solutions for society’s current and future engineering challenges.
Gutierrez is also taking advantage of international programs, such as the College of Engineering’s Reciprocal Exchange Program with Texas A&M in Qatar. During his brief stay in the Arab nation, he took two courses and volunteered as an undergraduate lab assistant. He also joined his cohort in cultural activities, including dune bashing (driving around the desert in SUVs), riding camels, visiting Doha’s enormous local market and participating in Ramadan’s fast.
Inventing His Future
Gutierrez’s ability to think outside the box is most evident in his involvement in the prestigious Aggies Invent competitions as well as the Aggies Against COVID-19 student design competition. These intensive events involve teams of Aggies who work collaboratively to develop a solution for a specific engineering challenge during a finite period of time.
Competitions focused on a wide range of industries—military, transportation and healthcare —and highlighted Gutierrez’s ingenuity and flexibility. “That’s the beautiful thing about mechanical engineering—you can apply it anywhere,” he explained.
His first win came during an Aggies Invent that focused on problems identified by the U.S. Special Operations Command. Gutierrez’s team developed a prototype of an autonomous robot that clears debris from military airfields. Such small debris—some as small as a screw—can cause significant damage to costly U.S. jet fighters.
Gutierrez also co-led a team that won Aggies Invent for the Planet 2020 and then went on to place first among the U.S. teams and place second internationally. The team designed an app that allows airline passengers to select which amenities—such as headphones, blankets or meals—they plan to use on a flight. This information improves airlines’ planning while also reducing waste. The app rewards passengers with frequent flyer miles for opting out of amenities and/or meals.
Last spring, his team was among the top 10 winners in the Aggies Against COVID-19, a student design competition involving students of all majors who were invited to help identify and solve problems related to the pandemic. In that contest, Gutierrez and his teammates designed the Easy Mask, which provides better protection against the novel Coronavirus than disposable masks.