Burton Rhodes

What does an average day in your current position look like?

As Laboratory Manager, I supervise all research activities in our state-of-the-art carbon fiber composites manufacturing research facility. This one of a kind facility houses the only full scale Automated Fiber Placement Machine for use in research, 3 Kuka industrial robots, autoclave, large industrial oven, compression molding machine, and 5-Axis CNC. I aid in the research of joining carbon fiber reinforced thermoplastic composites through High Frequency Induction Welding and Friction Stir Welding, as well as 3D printing.

Describe a high point in your career since graduating from LETU - was there a particular project of event that you found very rewarding?

After much hard work of building out our laboratory and conducting research, we were awarded a research contract from Boeing worth $5 million. It was quite rewarding to present an industrial scale laboratory that impressed the Boeing Executives enough to award us the contract.

How is your LETU education benefiting you in your current position?

My LeTu education given me ample hands on experience which far surpassed the of my peers. Through the intense hands on research included in all of my Materials Joining classes, I was able to gain knowledge of critical research skills while earning my undergraduate degree. The research opportunities available to undergrads at LETU are invaluable. Many of my professors at LETU worked in industry before moving to academia; the knowledge they brought was worth its weight in gold.

Was there a particular person who was very influential in your life during your time at LETU?

Several people at LETU had a major impact on my life, I had many great professors and coaches, but I will narrow it down to my top 3. Dr. Adonyi was the most powerful academic influence for me at LETU. His teaching, guidance, and correction drove me to excellence after graduation. Mrs. Terri Deike was a strong encouragement to me as I finished my time at LETU. And finally, my favorite professor was Mr. J. Dale West. I thoroughly enjoyed his industry insight in both Project Management and Thermodynamics.

Why did you choose to study Materials Joining Engineering at LETU?

From a young age, I knew that I wanted to be an Engineer. As a middle school student I read "Mover of Men and Mountains", R.G. LeTourneau's autobiography. As a 6th grader, I decided that I wanted to go to LeTourneau to study engineering and play baseball, and I did. When I previewed at LETU in 11th grade, I learned of Materials Joining and knew it was the degree for me. I wanted to work in aerospace and knew that I needed a unique degree and skill set. Materials Joining gave me experience in welding and joining of composites, a unique combination.

What would you say to a current LETU student in your same major? What would you say to someone considering the same major?

To those current Materials Joining majors I would say: participate in as many research opportunities as possible, broaden your knowledge of joining techniques for both metals and composites, and work in industrial settings before you graduate. If you are considering Engineering, I would say: choose Materials Joining. Materials Joining is the most hands on Engineering Discipline. Materials Joining is unique, in high demand, and LeTourneau is the top program in the country.

How did your time at LETU affect your spiritual growth?

During my time at LETU, I attended some great chapel services; the most memorable of which were Phil Keaggy and Mark Cahill. Mr. Keaggy is an excellent musician who uses his talents to glorify the Lord. Mr. Cahill is a powerful witness for the Lord who has been used mightily to grow the Kingdom of God.

Do you have a favorite memory of a friendship/friendships that you made during your time at LETU?

I had some great times at LETU and made some great friends. I lived on Club for my first years at school which was fun. I had a great time playing baseball and enjoyed the camaraderie that comes along with being on a college team. Most of all, I enjoyed the brotherhood of Phi Sigma Lambda. By being a member of Phi Sig, I was able to fellowship with my brothers, serve the LETU community (Hotcake Hoe Down!), and develop into a leader on campus.

Burton Rhodes

2013 Graduate
B.S. Engineering Technology, Materials Joining

Laboratory Manager
The McNAIR Center for Aerospace Innovation & Research at the University of South Carolina