Justin Baron: from Madawaska to Paris, mechanical engineering technology’s a good fit

Justin Baron worked a couple of dead-end jobs after graduating high school. He knew he wanted more.

The Madawaska, Maine native found what he was looking for in mechanical engineering technology (MET).

The University of Maine senior enjoys ensuring a smooth transition between development, design, testing and manufacturing of innovative products.

Baron realized that MET was a good fit during a 2016 internship at Twin Rivers Paper Company in his hometown near the Canadian border. ​

He’s also gained considerable hands-on experience as a student research assistant at the University of Maine Advanced Structures and Composites Center.

“I pride myself on good communication with my supervisor and co-workers,” says Baron, who works in the Alfond Advanced Manufacturing Lab for Structural Thermoplastics.

Jonathan Roy, the center’s structural thermoplastics research engineer, ​ says Baron is reliable, has trained on state-of-the-art equipment, finds solutions to challenges and is a charismatic leader.

Under the direction of senior R&D program manager David Erb, Baron helped create a fiber-reinforced thermoplastic rear differential cover prototype from a printed 3-D mold.

Rear differential covers — traditionally metal — protect a vehicle’s differential, or the set of gears on the rear axle.

The UMaine composite prototype has similar strength and stiffness to the metal part from which it was re-engineered, and is one-quarter of the weight. The part can be produced rapidly and allow for significant reductions in cost. The prototype cover also is recyclable. When its purpose as a differential cover is done, it can be melted and repurposed.

“It won’t be tossed in a landfill,” Baron says.

Baron’s primary role was in tape layup — placing layers of fiber composites at various angles to gain strength — on the advanced RELAY 2000 Station.

“Fail fast and fail cheap” was the mantra for team members as they sought to test the design, learn from any problem areas and continually make changes to improve the product.

In September, Erb gave an overview of the project at the Society of Plastics Engineers Automotive Composites Conference and Exhibition. The presentation, says Baron, ​showcased​ capabilities of the lab.

Earlier in March, Baron and Erb attended the JEC World 2017 International Composites Event in Paris with representatives of the Maine International Trade Center. Baron and Erb shared achievements and information about areas of expertise at the UMaine Composites Center.

Baron is the team leader for an outside-funded senior capstone project. Team members are building fiber-reinforced composite hemispheres. The expectation is that their findings could lead to more efficient manufacturing of products, including helmets.

Baron also was secretary of the UMaine chapter of Engineers Without Borders. The student group works on sustainable engineering projects in developing countries to improve people’s quality of life.

He recently introduced himself to representatives of various firms at the recent Engineering Job Fair on campus.

As graduation approaches, Baron says he’s eager to work at a company where he can continue to develop his knowledge and skills, perhaps in aerospace technology.

Whichever company that lands him will be fortunate, says Roy, adding that Baron’s people and technological skills set him apart.

UMaine Composites Center founding director Habib Dagher agrees. Last spring, he presented a 2017 Director’s Award to Baron. The award recognizes​ people who have made extraordinary contributions to the center and who enhance its mission of research, education and economic development.

Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777