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Students present senior design research at AIAA conference

Weather balloon

Photo courtesy of NASA (Larger image)

Decorative initial cap Although the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Aerodynamic Decelerator Systems Technology Conference and Balloons Systems Conference provided a forum for world leaders in the field to discuss its future, the setting transported attendees some-200 years into the past. “The conference was held in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, so just getting to the conference hotel let us see the various reenactments that were going on,” says Trevor Nesbitt.

Now in his final semester as an engineering mechanics master’s student, Nesbitt traveled to Virginia May 21 through 24, 2007, to co-present a paper at the conference.

The paper, “Buoyant Venus descender: Design of an atmospheric probe for the scientific study of Venus,” was an offshoot of Nesbitt’s spring 2006 senior design project with then-fellow students Emily Prewett, Angie Franzke, Christy Modl and Ben Regnor. “Our project was a probe to Venus that would be able to stay aloft via ballooning technology in the atmosphere of Venus in order to collect data,” says Nesbitt. “The paper went into the motivations, conditions on Venus at the atmospheric layer of interest, and described in detail our design for the probe.”

For their class, the students designed only the components necessary to see the probe from atmospheric entry through balloon deployment and steady-state operation.

Weather balloon

Photo courtesy of NASA (Larger image)

Prewett also attended the conference and she and Nesbitt delivered the paper together. He calls presenting the paper a great experience. “Everyone there was very receptive to student participation and were very understanding of the limitations we were under for the design process—time, manpower, etc.—and seemed fairly impressed with what we were able to accomplish,” he says.

Their course instructor, Adjunct Professor Frederick Elder, also is pleased the students were invited to participate. “It means our senior design class helps people both in the world of product/hands-on engineering and in the world of research,” he says.

Throughout the conference, Nesbitt attended talks on ballooning missions to Mars and Titan, and on new types of analyses for balloon films. “I was able to get a good sense of how much time and effort is involved when dealing with balloon missions,” he says. “And even though ballooning seems like an old technology, we still don’t have all of the kinks worked out yet.”

Nesbitt, who is conducting research for his master’s degree under Associate Professor Riccardo Bonazza, says his trip to the conference also was a valuable networking experience. “I enjoyed meeting all of the various aerospace professionals at the conference,” he says. “All of them were really nice and supportive. Everyone was really enthusiastic to have students involved in the process.”

 


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Date last modified: Friday, 4-January-2008 11:49:00 CDT
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