NDTL team welcomes new team members

Author: Jasmin Avila-Sacco

NDTL Propulsion & Power team welcomes new team members. From left to right: Maricela Navarro, Benjamin Riggles, and Rio Larsen.
NDTL Propulsion & Power team welcomes new team members. From left to right: Maricela Navarro, Benjamin Riggles, and Rio Larsen.

The NDTL team is growing, and we are excited to introduce our new members. Benjamin Riggles, Maricela Navarro, and Rio Larsen recently joined our staff in key roles to further strengthen the NDTL team. Stay tuned as NDTL continues to grow its team.

Benjamin Riggles joined NDTL as the test engineering manager in August 2023. In his role, Ben leads NDTL’s skilled team of test engineers and assists with operations management. Ben is originally from central Indiana and holds a B.S. in mechanical engineering from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. After university, he served in the US Air Force for twelve years in explosive ordnance disposal and civil engineering. His service led him to Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, and Florida. Ben had the privilege of commanding two explosive ordnance units in New Mexico and Arizona and considers this a career highlight.

After his time in Air Force, Ben served as the test engineering and space propulsion test site manager for Sierra Space in Wisconsin where he led personnel, operations, maintenance, and site planning. His team tested propulsion systems, thrusters, and engines for space applications.

Ben has now returned to his home state of Indiana and is looking forward to the future. “I am excited to be a part of the University of Notre Dame and the NDTL Propulsion & Power team,” he said. Outside of the lab, Ben enjoys spending time with his family and being outdoors. He enjoys fishing, hunting, hiking, and working on personal projects.

Maricela Navarro joined NDTL as administrative coordinator in July 2023. She supports NDTL’s engineering and business operations teams as well as assistant directors with special projects, travel arrangements, meeting coordination, hiring processes, events, and other administrative tasks.

A graduate of Indiana University South Bend with a degree in general studies and Spanish, Mari worked in the medical field for seven years and then in education for five years managing testing compliance for multilingual learners. She also worked in business and founded a motor carrier company in 2019, which transported freight across the Midwest. As an entrepreneur leading and managing her own company, Mari served as a committee and board member of various organizations in her local community. She appreciated this opportunity to learn about and connect with the people in her community.

Mari’s career eventually led her to NDTL where her experiences in education, business, management, and community building contribute to her role every day. “Every experience matters. I work behind the scenes to help our teams function more efficiently and effectively,” she said. “I am looking forward to supporting the growth of NDTL.”

Beyond the lab, Mari and her family travel often for soccer games, practices, and tournaments. She enjoys listening to music and podcasts that help foster personal growth.

Rio Larsen joined the NDTL test engineering team in June 2023. In his role, Rio is responsible for the setup and teardown of test rigs, testing and monitoring machinery and data, rotordynamics, and instrumentation calibration and procurement.

Rio is a recent graduate from Purdue University with a B.S. in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering. At Purdue, he worked as an undergraduate researcher in the Zucrow Labs supporting turbofan aeromechanics research. He was attracted to NDTL’s size and the scope of its facilities. After graduation, he saw NDTL as a clear choice and ideal place to embark on his career. “NDTL’s mission includes developing technologies for advanced propulsion and energy concepts, and I am glad to be a part of that,” he said.

When he is not in the test cell, Rio enjoys chess and playing the piano.