A paper coauthored by University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) students Ashley Sharfenburg, an aerospace engineering senior, and Beth Dutour, a junior in aerospace engineering, won in the community outreach section of the AIAA National Student Paper Competition at the recent AIAA SciTech Conference in Grapevine, Texas.
The paper was presented by Sharfenburg, who is also the president of the UAH Student Section of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). Dutour was unable to attend. Dutour and Sharfenburg’s winning paper is titled, “University of Alabama – Huntsville Community Outreach.”
Also competing from UAH, after winning at the 2016 AIAA Region II Conference, were UAH aerospace engineering junior Davis Hunter in the team technical category; Kareem Omar, a senior Honors student pursuing dual bachelor’s degrees in aerospace engineering and theoretical physics, in the undergraduate/individual category; and aerospace systems engineering doctoral student Amit Patel in the masters category.
Hunter presented “Design, Construction, and Flight of a High-Power Rocket Vehicle and Autonomous Payload,” which he coauthored with William Hill, an aerospace engineering junior. Patel presented “Magnetically Levitating Low-Friction Test Stand for the Measurement of Micro-Thruster Performance Characteristics” and Omar presented “Simultaneous Orbital and Attitude Propagation of Satellites in Low-Earth Orbit using CUDA for Aerodynamics Simulation.”
The paper by Sharfenburg and Dutour highlighted the community outreach programs of both UAH AIAA and UAH’s Space Hardware Club. Sharfenburg’s advisor is Dr. Brian Landrum, while Dr. Francis Wessling advises Dutour.
“For Space Hardware club, I presented on the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) program, where members hosted classes on amateur radio, rocketry, the ISS and STEM careers,” Sharfenburg says. After the classes, middle and elementary school students had the opportunity to use ham radio to speak with astronaut Tim Kopra aboard the ISS.
“I was the team lead of the Space Hardware Club’s ARISS project,” says Dutour. ARISS coordinates radio contacts between schools and the astronauts aboard the ISS. “In spring 2015, I submitted a proposal to get one of these contacts, and we were lucky to be one of 14 schools selected nationwide for a contact in spring 2016.”
The ARISS team worked with about 100 students from four local eighth grade classrooms from Discovery Middle School, Westlawn Middle School and the Tennessee Valley Home School Association.
“Our team visited each classroom four times to teach the students about the ISS, amateur radio, rocketry and careers in STEM,” Dutour says. “On Feb 19, all the students from those classrooms came to UAH, and select students had the chance to ask astronaut Tim Kopra what living in space is like. ARISS was one of the most rewarding projects I have been able to be a part of. We had such an amazing opportunity to change those students’ lives, and I am really proud of what we did.”
At SciTech, Sharfenburg also presented the UAH AIAA program entitled SOUP.
“SOUP stands for STEM Outreach at University Place Elementary. Through this program, volunteers hosted science labs for sixth grade students,” she says. The program aids under-served schools that may not have the resources to have science experiments and activities. Lab days catered to the teacher’s curriculum and helped expand students’ learning through hands on, fun activities.
Dutour and Sharfenburg presented their paper together at the Region II AIAA Student Conference in April. Their first place in the regional advanced their paper to SciTech.
“Competing at AIAA was an amazing experience! Students and industry professionals alike attended the conference, and it was an honor to speak with them and present our work to them,” Sharfenburg says. “This experience has helped me grow as an engineering student and taught me a lot about presentation and communication.”