Students win annual AIAA design competition

A group of Tech students recently won first place at the annual American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Space Student Design Competition. The AIAA, which is the world’s largest technical society, holds the competition annually to bring together the best of the country’s engineering students and give them real world problems to work through and design solutions.

This year’s team from the Institute was comprised of six Aerospace students: Matthew Levine, Sydney Lewis, Suyog Benegalrao, Steven Rooks, Danielle Hansen and Gabriel Morocoima. The team, which was one out of six groups from Tech that proposed a project to the AIAA this year, based the proposal on a project from their capstone senior design course, AE 4357.

The project that they developed was called the Space Weather Experimental Platform (SWEPT), and focused on methods of gathering information on the strength of radiation and effect on a spacecraft; effects of solar radiation on the magnetotail region and the electron temperature, velocity and density.

The students were required by the rules of the competition to create a design for a spacecraft that is able to remove large sized space debris from a specific altitude and orbit angle.

The team was working under a number of constraints for the duration of the project. This was done so that they could gain experience working under pressure and with certain variables that they might not have learned about in their in-class experiences.

“The purpose of the competition is for us to learn how to work in a realistic situation,” said Danielle Hansen, a fifth-year AE major.

The competition allows students who have been studying aerospace engineering to apply the skills they have gained in real world setting before they enter the workforce fulltime.

According to Hansen, the team also “learned industrial engineering skills along the way,” as the team was required to use a variety of engineering in order to complete the project.

Moving forward, the AIAA holds annual competitions of this nature, and as a result of the incredible success that the delegation from Tech had this year, the Institute will be well prepared to produce a well constructed performance at next year’s event.

Hansen mentioned that AIAA does a “different undergraduate competition each year”, and Tech will more than likely be returning next time.

As a result of their victory, the team will be awarded $2500 by AIAA, and will have the opportunity to send a representative from the team to the 2010 edition of the AIAA Space Conference. The conference will take place in Anaheim, Cal., and the students will be allowed to present their design and final project in a poster session.

The AIAA was founded in 1963 to represent aerospace professionals worldwide. Since its inception the organization has funded many competitions at the collegiate level in order to foster scholarship and innovation in the fields of aeronautics and astronautics.