Cadet Binh Q. Tran ’23, from Ashburn, Virginia, is an electrical and computer engineering major. He came to VMI because he wanted to commission but also because of VMI’s small class size; alumni network; and the physical, mental, and academic challenges VMI offers. Tran was “extremely happy” when he learned would receive a Peay scholarship and immediately called his parents. He grew up in Vietnam and moved to the U.S. in 2015.
“Colonel James Squire [Ph.D.] has been a great advisor and mentor for me since my parents are unfamiliar with the college process in the U.S. or the engineering career field,” Tran said about his former department head. “Therefore, I turned to Colonel Squire for a lot of advice and direction on my career path.”
VMI’s small size and committed professors, like Squire, resulted in Tran’s participation in projects not normally available to undergraduates. In 2020, he worked with Hongbo Zhang, Ph.D., on improving light detection and ranging, or LiDAR, in self-driving cars. Through this project, Tran increased his knowledge of C++ and Python programming languages while contributing to improving the ability of self-driving vehicles to react appropriately and recognize other vehicles, pedestrians, and road scenarios.
Since 2021, he has been developing a free application called Audiogram Emulator to help parents of deaf and hard-of-hearing children. With his graduation rapidly approaching, Tran realizes he is “running out of time” to complete the application. He has been working on the project with Cadet Cole Bowyer ’25, and Bowyer will continue work after Tran’s graduation. The ECE department often involves cadets from different classes on projects so that when one graduates, the project can continue. In addition to these projects, IEEE SoutheastCon approved one of Tran’s research papers, written at the doctoral student level, for publication.
He’s the S2 staff captain and part of the Cadet Investment Club and Cadet Equity Association. As the S2, he’s driven several improvements to make academic resources more visible and available to the Corps. His staff implemented an S2 bulletin board in barracks, improved the S2 website, added S2 door cards to increase S2 visibility, and began a new tutoring program. The program, called the “Cadet Peer Tutoring Program,” pairs cadets who need help with tutors. One of Tran’s “great friends” at VMI is fellow Peay Scholar and ECE major Cadet Dominick Lalena ’23, who has been part of the S2 staff in past years and currently serves as a department mentor for fellow cadets. Tran has also been able to offer guidance to the newest Peay Scholar, Cadet Julia Ward ’26, also an ECE major.
Managing his many commitments during his final year has been “rough” but overall valuable. One of the best rewards, Tran said, is when the S2 staff receives an email thanking them for their help and detailing a cadet’s academic improvement.
In spring 2023, Tran helped implement the Space Force structure into VMI’s Air Force ROTC Department. He was part of a team who oversaw and implemented training for all cadets in the AFROTC detachment. In 2021, he received the Raptor Award, given to VMI’s top AFROTC cadet.
In May 2023, he will commission into the U.S. Space Force as an active-duty developmental engineer officer.
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