CEMS - The College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences

NASA awards funds for student design project, NASA summer internships and student team competitions

Release Date: 08-15-2006

Author: Dawn Marie Densmore
Email: Dawn.Densmore@uvm.edu
Phone: Array Fax: 802-656-8802

The Vermont Space Grant Consortium (VSGC), based in UVM's College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences (CEMS), has received $40,000 from the Higher Education Office of NASA's Exploration Systems Missions Directorate (ESMD) to enhance three targeted components of Vermont's engineering education programs. This award will support a senior undergraduate engineering design project, student summer internships, and engineering teams competing in national competitions.

UVM senior engineering design project

The funding will allow a Senior Capstone Design Project based on an ESMD research priority to be offered to undergraduate engineering students in the College during the 2006-2007 academic year. Faculty supervisors for this project will be Drs. Hitt and Dubief (Mechanical Engineering) and Dr. Varhue (Electrical & Computer Engineering). Research collaborators at NASA will also participate as external advisors.

A team of five to ten students from mechanical, electrical and civil engineering will be selected on the basis of academic performance and the mix of student expertise required by the design project. The student team will be required to prepare and maintain a timeline for activities along with a design portfolio. Monthly written progress reports will be submitted to the advisory faculty along with a mid-year report and oral presentation. A final report and presentation will also be required. Final assessment will be based jointly on the design process (e.g., portfolio) and the prototype construction, testing and performance of the designed device.

NASA summer internships

The VSGC will use this funding to promote and support four ten-week NASA Exploration Internships during the summer of 2007 for students who are engineering majors (juniors, seniors or graduate students). These internships will give the participating students ESMD-relevant work experience and will involve hands-on engineering projects with a strong and involved placement mentor.

Two of the four supported ten-week summer internships will be at a NASA Center. The VSGC will work closely with University Affairs Officers at appropriate NASA Centers to identify available ESMD-relevant NASA summer opportunities and to match these opportunities with the selected student participants.

The two additional supported summer internships will be in industry. Milton A. Silveira, a consulting engineer, will be the placement mentor for these students as they work on projects involving the design of a crew module and service module for future space station resupply missions as well as lunar and Mars exploration missions. A major focus of this effort will be the design of a launch escape vehicle and landing and recovery system. Dr. Silveira has close, longstanding ties with both NASA and Vermont. He was formerly chief engineer and assistant to the deputy administrator for NASA, as well as deputy manager of the Orbiter Project for the Space Shuttle Program. Since 1994, he has been a member of the UVM College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences Board of Advisors.

Student engineering teams

The new funding will also allow the VSGC to provide grants to two Vermont undergraduate engineering teams that will participate in ESMD-related national engineering design challenges. One of the teams will be the UVM MoonCat Team, which has competed since 2003 in NASA's yearly Great Moonbuggy Race held in Huntsville, Alabama. This team typically involves one or two UVM faculty mentors and five to eight UVM engineering students.

In 2005, the UVM MoonCat vehicle was judged by the American Institute of Aeronautical Engineers to be "Best in Design" among the 31 buggies entered by U.S. schools as well as competitors from Canada and Germany. The redesigned MoonCat vehicle that will compete in the 2007 race will include stronger rims and more aggressive tires for better side loading, as well as a new seat construction design and a repositioning of the control box.

The design efforts of the UVM MoonCat Team will be aided by an ongoing collaboration with Triangle Metal Fabrication, Inc. of Milton, Vermont, a VSGC Industrial Affiliate that is a national leader in the fabrication of sophisticated metal parts. A second supported undergraduate engineering team will be determined in the fall based on available ESMD-related design competitions and student interests.

For more information

For more information, please contact Dr. William Lakin or Laurel Zeno, both with the Vermont Space Grant Consortium/NASA EPSCoR.

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