Alexandra Sanz-Guerrero

Alexandra Sanz-Guerrero

Alexandra Sanz-Guerrero Solves Problems with Teamwork

Alexandra Sanz-Guerrero ’12, MS ’13, understands the importance of teamwork when confronted with problems. At the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) in Newport, R.I., she’s the lead systems engineer on a team that designed an autonomous drone that can be launched and recovered from a submarine—a U.S. Navy weapons system with a mouthful of a name: the Large Displacement Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (LDUUV) Snakehead project.

“In order to achieve success, it takes a lot of collaboration between engineers and scientists across multiple government organizations and disciplines,” she says. “As a team lead, I need to understand all engineering disciplines to come up with solutions to various problems.”

As a team lead, I need to understand all engineering disciplines to come up with solutions to various problems.

Sanz-Guerrero credits WPI’s project-based learning with developing the team-building and critical-thinking skills she uses every day in her career. In particular, she says her Major Qualifying Project experience in China gave her an early appreciation of why other points of view are essential. She and another WPI student worked with two students at Shanghai Jiao Tong University to develop a strobe light for fire alarms at Tyco Electronics. They ended up recommending a change to increase the efficiency of the fire alarm bulb.

“Working with two students from another culture was enlightening and brought a new perspective on how to solve the problem,” she says. “Having diverse points of view was a clash in the beginning, but as we worked through the problem together and worked as a team, we were able to come up with an innovative and unexpected solution. To this day, I make sure I have others around me to help bounce ideas around until we come up with an effective solution together.”

Sanz-Guerrero was a member of the women’s swim team from her sophomore year until graduating with her master’s degree in the five-year BS/MS mechanical engineering program. The swim team served as her campus family, making the grueling hours of training bearable. She also has many fond memories of working on projects in the library.

“The library was a very collaborative space where I would work with my swim teammates or my roommates,” she says. “Most of the time we weren’t even in the same class, but we’d be working together, supporting one another, and helping each other out where we could. It made doing homework and projects much more enjoyable.”

She describes her current LDUUV Snakehead project as “a modular, reconfigurable, multi-mission vehicle deployed from a submarine.” The lithium-ion battery-powered Snakehead guides, controls, propels, and maneuvers the drone, which can be launched and recovered underwater.

Her successes at NUWC, as well as her work as a mentor to other women engineers, recently earned her the Career Communications Group Women of Color magazine STEM Outstanding Achievement Award as a Technology Rising Star. The award recognizes women who have demonstrated exceptional achievements in STEM in their workplace and in their communities.

“To me, it means my hard work and achievements have been recognized within my organization,” Sanz-Guerrero says of the award. “It makes me feel like my efforts are acknowledged and supported by my workplace. I also hope that it provides motivation to other women as they work through their careers.”

She says she’s proud that the award announcement noted her mentoring skills.

“I find that proper mentoring and training provides new hires with confidence in their product and strengthens their abilities. They’re able to take what they’ve been taught and utilize it much quicker than having to learn from scratch,” she says.

“I still have a long way to go in my career, and none of it has panned out as I expected; but I wouldn’t have done it any other way. What I do know is that I will continue to take leadership roles within NUWC and pass my knowledge and lessons learned to others to help enhance their careers.”

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