Student Honors

WPI Teams Earn AIAA Student Conference Honors

May 8, 2014
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 Two student teams from the Aerospace Engineering Department brought home first and second prizes in the Team category awards at the recent 2014 American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Region 1 Student Paper Conference.

Four teams represented WPI at the April conference at Cornell University. According to AIAA student chapter advisor Professor Anthony Linn, the conference benefits the students in several ways. Attending and presenting papers, which were MQP-based research projects, provides a great opportunity to get undergraduate research more involved and connected to manufacturers and corporations. But students also gain intangible benefits, even if they don’t win an award.

Senior AE major Davis was thrilled with the way WPI held its own against some big-name AE programs

“It gives the students a good opportunity to go to the conference,” says Linn, who is also the AIAA‘s New England Section chair. “It’s lots of fun for them to see other schools and to see what other students are doing.” In addition to WPI, students represented schools including Boston University, Cornell, Clarkson, Lafayette, MIT, Penn State, RPI, University of Maryland, Virginia Tech, and Wentworth. But Linn also notes the skill-building benefits of the conference. “They can gauge their work according to what other students are doing. And it gives them confidence in terms of presenting.”

During the conference’s two days, WPI’s teams presented four of the more than 100 papers. The awards, says Linn, were largely due to the incredibly well-written papers that WPI submitted.

Students competed in the Team category against schools with powerful aerospace departments, says Linn. Each team had to submit an 11-page paper before the competition and, once there, give a 15-minute oral presentation followed by a 5-minute Q&A. The presentations were judged on-site and the papers were read, judged, and scored by judges both off- and on-site.

Taking the top prize in the Team category were Kate Davis, Elizabeth Fortner, Michael Heard, Hannah McCallum, and Hunter Putzke with the group paper “Experimental and Computational Investigation of a Dual Bell Nozzle” and the presentation by Davis. Professor John Blandino advised the group.

Senior AE major Davis, who had never presented at a conference before, was thrilled with the way WPI held its own against some big-name AE programs. Thanks to their frequent MQP project presentations, Davis said the WPI students handled the judges’ questions easily and with more confidence than students at many of the other schools.

“I think WPI came out the real winner of the conference,” she says, noting some schools gave more than two dozen presentations to WPI’s four. “It’s such a testament to all the work we have done in the past year. The conference really helps bring [WPI] recognition. Having WPI get its name out there and performing on that kind of stage benefits us.”

The second place team in the same category earned honors for “Design of a Micro Pulsed Plasma Thruster for a 3U CubeSat,” and included input from Sebastian Eslava, Jordan Marchetto, and Eric Scougal. Professor Nikos Gatsonis was adviser.

The other WPI teams presented “Micro-Aerial Vehicle for SAE Competition, Team -1” by Eric Breault, Gary Feldman, Daniel Lipka, Erik McCaffrey, Nicholas Rallis, and Erik Scott, and “Micro Aircraft Team -2” by George Buscan, Ryan Burgan, Marco Romero, John Stackable, and Alexander Szumita.

Although WPI hadn’t participated in the conference in a few years, Linn says he plans to continue sending students because it has so many benefits. Next year’s conference is at Virginia Tech and he hopes WPI will host the conference in 2016.

BY JULIA QUINN-SZCESUIL