September 2023

AIAA Foundation Making an Impact: 2023 AIAA Graduate Awards and Scholarship Winners Announced

Each year, AIAA distributes over $100,000 in scholarships and graduate awards to undergraduate and graduate students studying aerospace engineering at accredited colleges and universities throughout the United States and overseas. In 2023, AIAA scholarship and graduate award winners came from all corners of the aerospace industry and are studying a variety of topics from digital avionics to hypersonics. Below we profile this year’s 24 scholarship and graduate award winners who are shaping the future of aerospace.

2023 AIAA Graduate Award Winners

Dr. Hassan A. Hassan Graduate Award in Aerospace Engineering
Rutledge Fogel
North Carolina State University
Amount of Award: $6,000

Rutledge is currently enrolled as a master’s student in the aerospace engineering program at North Carolina State University. He recently graduated cum laude with his bachelor of science in aerospace engineering from the institution. He intends to begin a master’s thesis while continuing to perform research for the Thermal Energy Research and Management Lab at North Carolina State University. He also plans to be a graduate assistant for the aerial robotics club. Rutledge’s career and professional goals are to be an aircraft or propulsion system designer for a commercial and defense aerospace company. He also intends to continue learning about control systems through his master’s degree and would also aspire to be a control systems engineer and designer.
I hope to be a great engineer and a good education will place me on the path to accomplishing that goal. This award will decrease the financial load caused by attending school and allow me more free time and resources that I will spend on my studies, research, and activities which will shape me into a great engineer.

Shaan Stephen
North Carolina State University
Amount of Award: $6,000

Shaan is a dynamic young mind ready to embark on his graduate school journey at NC State University. Having earned his aerospace engineering degree with the class of 2023, he’s set to pursue his passion for aerospace by continuing his studies. During his undergrad years, Shaan actively contributed to the High-Powered Rocketry club, serving as the recovery lead for his senior design project. Collaborating with Dr. Venkat Narayanaswamy, he played a key role in establishing a hypersonic tunnel on NC State’s campus and co-authored a paper on pressure-sensitive paint in aerospace applications. When not conquering academic pursuits, you can find Shaan engaging in video games or scaling heights through rock climbing adventures with his friends. A future trailblazer with a zest for life!
Winning this award was quite a shock for me, but I am glad to receive it and put it to use in furthering the field of aerospace!

Neil Armstrong Graduate Award
Michaela Hemming
University of Alabama in Huntsville
Amount of Award: $5,000

Michaela is an Aerospace Engineering Ph.D. Candidate at the University of Alabama in Huntsville under the advisement of Dr. Gabe Xu. Her dissertation research involves backflow and recovery experiments on multi-phase propellant injectors for use in rotating detonation rocket engine (RDREs). Her work is funded through the NASA Space Technology Graduate Research Opportunities (NSTGRO) grant through which she also has the opportunity to support RDRE research at Marshall Space Flight Center.
After graduation, Michaela hopes to continue research and development of advanced propulsion systems either through government research labs or private industry. She also has an interest in following the policy behind dispersal of research funding. Her ideal job would be one that allows her to influence the direction of space propulsion research.
With this award, I will be able to perform more experiments that take the fundamental knowledge I’ve gained and apply it to systems of interest for the research community. It will also help expand the reach of research by allowing me to attend more conferences I wouldn’t otherwise have the funds to attend.

Orville and Wilbur Wright Graduate Award
Sandro Salgueiro
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Amount of Award: $5,000

Sandro is a Ph.D. candidate at MIT specializing in air transportation systems. His doctoral research focuses on the design of aircraft navigation routes while considering the risk of midair collisions introduced by rare abnormal aircraft behavior. By seeking to develop a better understanding of the collision risk between aircraft routes, Sandro’s research aims to enable more efficient and sustainable operations in the National Airspace System. Sandro is a multi-engine rated commercial pilot with industry experience in conceptual aircraft design and flight deck design. He has also contributed to the design of multiple instrument flight procedures currently in use at Boston Logan Airport. Sandro’s career goals are to contribute to the development of future air traffic control technologies, aircraft navigation systems, and flight deck architectures.
Having your work recognized is always a special occasion, but even more so when the recognition carries the names of the Wright Brothers. Having always admired the spirit of innovation that they impart on the aviation industry to this day, I feel incredibly honored and encouraged to be receiving this award.

Lynn Pickering
University of Cincinnati
Amount of Award: $5,000

Lynn is a UC Ph.D. candidate in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Cincinnati. Her research involves using Fuzzy Logic as an artificial intelligence (AI) method that provides the transparency and explainability to truly advance AI. Explainability in AI (XAI) is essential to enhance partnerships with humans and ensure that AI is being utilized in a fair and ethical manner. Her short-term professional goals are to work toward XAI systems in the aerospace field that enable humans to place more trust in AI, making for effective human-machine systems. Long term, her plans are to work in explainable AI and policy to regulate AI so that it works in the human user’s best interest in any engineering field.
The Orville and Wilbur Wright Graduate Award will have a positive impact on me because I will have adequate funding to continue my Ph.D. studies. In addition, this award reinforces my goal that explainable AI systems be used to have an important impact in the field of aerospace engineering.

Guidance, Navigation and Control Graduate Award
Animesh Shastry
University of Maryland, College Park
Amount of Award: $3,500

Animesh is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Maryland. He is majoring in flight dynamics and control and minoring in Rotorcraft. He is passionate about aerial robotics. His current research focuses on developing a framework for concurrent search and tracking of multiple moving ground targets using a swarm of UAVs. Previously he has worked on developing a self-calibration framework for UAVs operating in unsteady wind and implementing it on an embedded platform that he designed himself. He is skilled in implementing advanced robotics algorithms and building fully autonomous robots. He aspires to make a mark in the scientific community and pursue research-oriented work in the field of Guidance, Navigation, and Control.
This scholarship will help me achieve my educational and career goals. It will relieve some financial burden, allowing me to focus on learning and advancing my professional training. It will help me accelerate my goals and become a successful professional in the field of Guidance, Navigation, and Control.

Luis de Florez Graduate Award
Sybren Bootsma
Delft University of Technology
Amount of Award: $3,500

Sybren is a Master of Science student at the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering of Delft University of Technology, graduating in the Control and Simulation department. For his MSc thesis, he investigates the perception thresholds of stall models in flight simulators, which will lead to a better understanding of the required accuracy of stall models in flight simulation and pilot training. Working to enhance flight safety is one of the driving motivations for his studies and enthuses him greatly.
For the future, he aspires to contribute toward sustainable aviation. Combining both sustainability and safety in aviation would be perfect future goal. As regarding the near future, he is working on his graduation project which is to be finished in the beginning of 2024.
The award recognizes the important work that TU Delft Aerospace Engineering is doing and it makes me proud to be part of this community. The award is a great boost toward finishing my MSc thesis and I am looking forward to graduating and starting my professional career in flight safety and sustainable aviation.

John Leland Atwood Graduate Award
Catherine Nachtigal
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Amount of Award: $1,250

Catherine is a second-year graduate student in the AeroAstro program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology seeking a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering with a concentration in space propulsion. She is researching new electrospray thruster designs in the Space Propulsion Laboratory with advisor Professor Paulo Lozano. Following graduation, Catherine plans to continue working with electric propulsion systems at a national lab to increase the scale, efficiency, and lifetime of electrospray thrusters for deep space satellite and other spacecraft missions.
This generous award will allow me to purchase additional school supplies to comfortably continue pursuing my graduate education and research in electrospray thrusters.

Gordon C. Oates Air Breathing Propulsion Graduate Award
Daniel Gochenaur
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Amount of Award: $1,000

Daniel is a Ph.D. student and NDSEG fellow in MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Before MIT, Daniel received a Master of Philosophy in supersonic aerodynamics from the University of Cambridge, where he attended as a Churchill Scholar. Daniel also holds a Bachelor of Science in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Purdue University, and he has held appointments with AFRL’s High Speed Systems Division, Boeing’s Virtual Warfare Center, and the JHU Applied Physics Laboratory Air and Missile Defense Sector. After graduating from MIT, Daniel intends to join a government defense laboratory focused on developing aerospace technologies that will enable future advances in hypersonics and space systems.
I am honored to receive this recognition for my research on supersonic inlet flow control. This award inspires me to push even harder toward achieving my career goals, and is attributed to my colleagues, advisors, and supporters of recent years who have continuously pushed me to perform at the highest level.

2023 AIAA Undergraduate Scholarship Winners

AIAA Lockheed Martin Marillyn Hewson Scholarship
Anna Maria Zueva
Columbia University
Amount of Scholarship: $10,000

Anna Maria is a rising freshman at Columbia University who will be majoring in Mechanical Engineering and minoring in Computer Science. She currently researches underwater mechanical vibrations in the Multiphysics Lab at the University of Nevada, Reno. She also earned the Associate of Engineering and Mathematics degrees before graduating from her high school as valedictorian. Anna dreams of being a test flight engineer and developing next-generation aircraft. When she is not in the lab, she can be found in local coffee shops writing a novel. She loves practicing public speaking and hiking around her second home: Lake Tahoe. No matter where life takes Anna, she finds the most fulfillment in helping others and will continue to do so as she enters the aerospace industry.
Words cannot express my gratitude for this award. It means the world that AIAA members can help fund my education and fuel my dreams of becoming a successful test flight engineer. Without this award, I would not be able to fully take advantage of the opportunities offered at Columbia. With all my heart, thank you.

Priya Abiram
Cornell University
Amount of Scholarship: $10,000

Priya is an aspiring astronaut and entrepreneur pursuing Aerospace Engineering at Cornell Engineering. She hopes to land on Mars and develop spin-offs from space life support technology to improve the human condition on Earth. She is a Congressional Award Gold Medalist and interned at The Boeing Company as a Systems Engineer for the 777X jet and at NASA Kennedy Space Center for the Space Crop Production team. Priya is a Cadet Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force Auxiliary and a Citizen Science Astronaut Trainee at the International Institute of Astronautical Sciences, who has trained in spacesuit evaluation and acrobatic flying, and designed and flew payloads on microgravity research flight. She is an innovator of internationally awarded technologies and a published researcher. She is building a satellite to the ISS and rocketry team.
This scholarship is a big motivator in helping me pursue my degree. As someone who hopes to continue with a graduate degree, this will help me turn my passions and goals into reality. Reducing financial commitments also helps me pursue a pilot license, scuba diving, and more.

Daedalus 88 Scholarship
Lucas Pabarcius
California Institute of Technology
Amount of Scholarship: $10,000

Lucas, from London, England, is a Senior at Caltech studying Physics with a minor in Aerospace Engineering. He is the Chair of Caltech Air and Outer Space organization (CAOS), and he led Caltech’s “Visionary Concept” award-winning team, LATTICE, for the 2022 NASA Big Idea Challenge, and led Team Explorer at the 2022 Caltech Space Challenge.
Lucas wants to help enable an inspiring future full of space activity that benefits and enriches life on Earth. He enjoys space engineering problems and has previously worked at NASA GSFC on missions including Starshot, Starshade, ORCAS, PACE, CUVE, and Europa Clipper. He has also conducted research at NASA, in labs, and backyards on laser communications, Europa melt probes, adaptive optics, bio-inspired meta-materials, non-convex optimal control, and hybrid rockets.
MIT Daedalus was a one-of-a-kind, profoundly inspiring achievement. It is an honor to receive the the Daedalus 88 Scholarship for my involvement with Caltech’s LATTICE project—this has inspired me to continue pursuing ambitious, innovative and impactful projects that can contribute to the future of space exploration.

Jammal Yarbrough
University of Southern California
Amount of Scholarship: $10,000

Jammal studies electrical and computer engineering at the University of Southern California. He aspires to be an electrical engineer for Millennium Space Systems where his focus will consist of designing satellites that contribute to our national defense and global communication networks. Outside of his career goals, he is passionate about inventions that contribute to advances in solar and AI technology. Ultimately, he will give back to the community through encouraging disadvantaged youth to become engineers by providing teaching and hands-on engineering projects through the nonprofit organization he started in 2021, the Broken STEM Foundation.
The Daedalus 88 Scholarship enables me to afford my education. The stressful cost of university is now manageable and focus will solely be on my academic performance. By utilizing the amazing scholarship that AIAA has provided, I can reach my goal of providing technological advances in the realm of aerospace.

David and Catherine Thompson Space Technology Scholarship
Noah McAllister
Rutgers University
Amount of Scholarship: $10,000

Noah is a senior studying Aerospace Engineering with a minor in math at Rutgers University. He currently serves as the AIAA Rutgers Student Branch Chair and the Chief Engineer of RU Airborne, the AIAA Design/Build/Fly competition team, having previously served as the Propulsion Lead. During the school year, Noah researches thin-film coatings manufactured by self-limiting electrospray deposition in the Hybrid Micro/Nanomanufacturing Lab; his senior thesis is on aeroelastic design optimization in collaboration with the Aerospace Systems Directorate of the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL). He has previously interned at AFRL, and interned this summer at Lockheed Martin Space on the NASA Dragonfly mission. Following graduation, Noah plans to pursue a Ph.D. studying structural design optimization and fluid-structure interaction.
The David and Catherine Thompson Space Technology Scholarship will help me continue my educational path at Rutgers. I am grateful to AIAA for this scholarship, as well as the opportunities AIAA has provided.

Vicki and George Muellner Scholarship for Aerospace Engineering
Nikolai Baranov
Purdue University
Amount of Scholarship: $5,000

Nikolai is an aerospace engineering student with a strong interest in propulsion and hydrogen combustion. During high school, he gained experience with turbomachinery while balancing rotors to fund their college education. Now, his focus lies in exploring the possibilities of hydrogen propulsion with a keen eye on innovation and sustainability. Nikolai values diverse hobbies and takes a systematic approach to their endeavors, aspiring to make a significant impact in their field both as a professional and a person. His ultimate career goal is to pursue a research-oriented path and obtain a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering, where he aims to contribute groundbreaking advancements. Emphasizing the importance of continuous self-improvement, Nikolai is dedicated to shaping the future of propulsion and combustion in the aerospace industry.
This scholarship will allow me to continue on my academic path, while allowing me to engage in social and technical activities that are not financially motivated. I will continue learning and working as an undergraduate researcher and present my contributions during one of the upcoming AIAA conferences before my Ph.D.

Wernher von Braun Scholarship
Ashish Cavale
Georgia Institute of Technology
Amount of Scholarship: $5,000

Ashish is an aerospace engineering undergraduate student at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He has a strong interest in astrodynamics and propulsion systems. He actively engages in research projects, including various CubeSat propulsion efforts in the Glenn Lightsey Research Group at the Space Systems Design Laboratory. Through internships at companies like Analytical Graphics Inc., Northrop Grumman, Blue Origin, and Ball Aerospace, he has gained valuable hands-on experience in the aerospace industry. Ashish’s career aspirations revolve around contributing to space exploration and making a positive impact in the field. Ultimately, Ashish dreams of becoming a professor and researcher to inspire and mentor future generations of aerospace enthusiasts.
This scholarship brings me closer to my goals of continuing my education. With its support, I can pursue a Ph.D. and work toward becoming a professor. It provides a valuable boost on my path to making a meaningful impact in space exploration and research.

Dr. James Rankin Digital Avionics Scholarship
Quintan Ajluni
Purdue University
Amount of Scholarship: $3,000

As an Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering Undergrad at Purdue University, Quintan loves working on things that fly. This past summer he had a great internship with Metro Aviation, where he worked in the Avionics shop learning the manufacturing and installation processes behind much of the sensor and communication equipment in air ambulance helicopters. Going forward, he hopes to try his hand at rockets and is interested in working with any of the numerous new rocket startup companies. The fast pace and innovative environment these companies cultivate is an especially exciting prospect for the young engineer. He hopes to keep that energy in his later career and continue to strive toward better and better spaceflight.
This scholarship will allow me to focus on learning this year. While I had planned on researching for pay to help cover my expenses, this will take some of the stress out of paying for college and allow me to focus primarily on learning and researching what I find most interesting.

Dr. Amy R. Pritchett Digital Avionics Scholarship
Vikas Patel
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University – Daytona Beach
Amount of Scholarship: $3,000

Vikas is a junior in Aerospace Engineering at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. For the past two years, he has been a part of ERAU’s successful Design/Build/Fly team. At the 2023 AIAA DBF competition, he served as the team’s Lead Flight Test Engineer, conducting many tests throughout the year and guiding the pilot through the competition flights. In addition, he has recently been involved with his university’s Space Technologies Lab, where he is currently helping the team send a university camera system to record the first commercial spacewalk aboard the Polaris Dawn mission. He hopes to continue conducting research at the Lab and continue studying GNC in graduate school, with an eventual career in the aerospace industry.

Ellis F. Hitt Digital Avionics Scholarship
Ethan Traub
Georgia Institute of Technology
Amount of Scholarship: $3,000

Ethan is a 3rd year undergraduate majoring in Aerospace Engineering with a minor in Computational Data Analysis at Georgia Institute of Technology. As an undergraduate researcher in Georgia Tech’s Space Systems Design Laboratory (SSDL), Ethan is developing propulsion systems for small satellite swarms. Ethan also plans on earning his master’s degree from Georgia Tech while continuing research in SSDL. Following graduation, Ethan intends on pursuing a career as a propulsion test engineer.
I am continuously grateful for AIAA and the opportunities and support it provides me. This scholarship will assist me in pursuing my career in aerospace.

Cary Spitzer Digital Avionics Scholarship
Hampton Wohlford
Virginia Military Institute
Amount of Scholarship: $3,000

Hampton is a military brat. His childhood list of travels and homes includes North Carolina, Republic of Korea, Hawaii, Japan, Florida, and Virginia. In high school, he was recognized for academics, athletics, and leadership in sports. In his first year as a VMI Navy ROTC Midshipman, Hampton was awarded the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution Silver ROTC Medal. He participated in the summer 2023 Engineering Study Abroad in Rome, Italy, at John Cabot University and is now a rising sophomore and varsity swimmer at the Virginia Military Institute. Hampton is a double major in both Mechanical Engineering and Physics and hopes to earn a commission in the Navy upon graduation and serve as a Naval Aviator.
This scholarship reaches far beyond my life alone. I have three older siblings, all of us born within four years. We are trying to pay for college for all four of us. Effectively, this scholarship is not just for me; it is a contribution to the college degrees of all four children and is a blessing for my entire family.

Denise Ponchak Digital Avionics Scholarship
Sashwat Suman
Hindustan Institute of Technology & Science
Amount of Scholarship: $3,000

Sashwat is in his final year of undergraduate study, pursing aerospace engineering in India. In his bachelor studies the exposure to engines, rockets, spacecrafts, and constant research work helped him to explore various disciplines to broaden his knowledge. Sashwat has worked on the design and flow analysis of rocket nozzle to understand the pressure and heat losses in bell and conical nozzles. AIAA has given him a great opportunity to present his work at the 2022 Region VII Student Conference. He had learned about remote sensing, which has the impact to learn about the different geographical land of Nepal.
Being an international student in a country whose economy is higher than my own country it has been a challenge to manage the academic and accommodation expenditure. It’s a big relief to pursue my final year of engineering after receiving an AIAA undergraduate scholarship. This is my first scholarship ever, which has elevated my motivation to stay involved in research to help my country’s grow in aerospace.

Space Transportation Scholarship
Nelson Pixley
Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University
Amount of Scholarship: $1,500

Nelson is a rising senior studying Aerospace Engineering at Virginia Tech. He is currently working with Relativity Space this summer as a propulsion test engineering intern. Over the course of Nelson’s career he hopes to help develop the next generation of highly reliable and reusable launch vehicles, and he wouldn’t say no to a ticket to the Moon or Mars! Nelson chose to pursue aerospace because he loves rockets, and because he thinks that a future where spaceflight is commonplace for the average person is radically inspiring and worth fighting for. Outside of work, Nelson enjoys Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, playing guitar, and reading science fiction.
The AIAA scholarship I have received has empowered me to succeed, by allowing me to devote my time to my academic success and extracurriculars. I feel quite fortunate to receive this award, and I can unequivocally say that it will have a tremendous impact on my life.

Leatrice Gregory Pendray Scholarship
Shruti Jadhav
University of South Carolina
Amount of Scholarship: $1,250

Shruti, currently a senior at the University of South Carolina’s College of Engineering and Computing, is pursuing a degree in Aerospace Engineering with a minor in Computer Science. Alongside studies, she engages in undergraduate research and extracurricular activities, including participation in AIAA and Carolina Flight Club. Recently being honored with the SCSPE Outstanding Senior Award further fuels her drive and determination.
Post-graduation, Shruti plans to pursue a Masters in Aerospace Engineering at USC, seamlessly continuing her educational journey while gaining valuable insights from her extracurricular involvements. Ultimately, her career focus includes contributing toward the growing field of aerospace in areas such as sustainability, advanced satellite technology, and autonomous flight systems and making an impact in the industry.
Receiving this scholarship is a catalyst to achieve my goals, as it fuels my drive to perform the best in my studies and career. It validates my honest hard work and dedication throughout these years, while serving as an immense support to fulfill my dreams of further and higher education without financial constraints.

Rocky Mountain Section Scholarship
Jacob VerMeer
University of Colorado Boulder
Amount of Scholarship: $500

Jacob is an undergraduate student studying Aerospace Engineering Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder. His career aspiration is to find a position that blends his passion in aircraft design with his newfound interest in public policy. This passion for public policy was ignited during his participation in the Colorado Science and Engineering Policy Fellowship this past summer. To him, a successful professional career would involve pushing the aviation industry toward more sustainable design to help both society and the industry meet the threat of anthropogenic climate change. Post-retirement, he would like to become a high school math or physics teacher to guide and inspire the next generation of engineers and public leaders.
Receiving this scholarship will significantly lessen mine and my family’s financial burden going into my final undergraduate year. I plan to use this money to help pay for textbooks and any other school supplies I need to ace my classes this semester and take one more step toward finishing my degree.

Applications for the 2024 scholarships and graduate awards are being accepted from 1 October to 31 January. Please visit the AIAA Foundation’s Scholarship and Graduate Awards website for more information.

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AIAA Student Programs AIAA Supports the Spaceport America Cup

A person being interviewed under a canopy tent at an outdoor event with a camera operator filming the scene. Various people and equipment can be seen in the background.
AIAA Executive Director Dan Dumbacher speaks with Alice Carruth and the T-Minus Space Podcast about the importance of engagement with collegiate-level engineering competitions. Credit: AIAA

AIAA staff attended the 2023 Spaceport America Cup – Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition, held 19–23 June, in Truth or Consequences, NM. The Spaceport America Cup is an Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition hosted by Spaceport America and directed by the Experimental Sounding Rocket Association (ESRA). It comprises 5,913 students representing 158 total teams, including 78 international teams representing 24 countries and 80 domestic teams from around the United States.

Students gathered over the course of five days for a series of activities, including a conference day in Las Cruces, NM, to present their rocket designs to judges and peers. Student teams traveled to the launch site located at Spaceport America for a chance to launch their rocket in ideal conditions.

While on-site, AIAA Executive Director Dan Dumbacher and University Programs Manager Michael Lagana engaged with other corporate sponsors and spoke to students from universities around the world about the benefits of membership, the rich career advancement resources available to students, and how AIAA can be more involved on their campuses.

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Educators: Apply for an AIAA Classroom Grant

Three people are engaged in a hands-on activity involving arts and crafts materials on a table in a classroom setting.
STEM kits bought with a classroom grant. Credit: AIAA

If you are a K-12 classroom educator, don’t miss the opportunity to receive up to $500 for your STEM programs. The AIAA Foundation is working to bridge the gap in funding and support for programs with an emphasis on aerospace. The quick and easy application process is open through 30 September. For details on eligibility and to apply, go to: www.aiaa.org/classroomgrants.

Whether you have past experience with grants or none at all, this is a great opportunity! You can also watch the recording of this recent webinar to get first-hand advice directly from recipients of last year’s grants and judges.

“The materials purchased with your funds will allow me to create lessons that require creativity, inquiry skills, critical analysis, teamwork, and collaboration. Not only will these lessons allow me to teach our digital literacy standards, they will also allow me to challenge students to use problem-solving skills. The need for creative problem solving in our schools is stronger than ever.” — Ms. Farnum, 2nd grade educator from New York

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Publications News AIAA Announces Next Editor-in-Chief of the Progress in Astronautics and Aeronautics Series

A woman with long dark hair is smiling, wearing a grey blazer over a dark blouse, standing against a dark blue background.
Seetha Raghavan Credit: Raghavan

AIAA has announced that Seetha Raghavan, professor of Aerospace Engineering and associate dean of Research and Graduate Studies at the College of Engineering at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach, will serve as the next editor-in-chief of the Progress in Astronautics and Aeronautics book series, with service commencing in September 2023. Raghavan succeeds Timothy Lieuwen, Regents’ Professor and David S. Lewis, Jr. Chair of the Daniel Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering and executive director of the Strategic Energy Institute at Georgia Tech. Lieuwen has served as editor-in-chief of the Progress Series since 2012. During this time, he has overseen development and publication of nearly 30 books on topics ranging from additive manufacturing, to Mars exploration, to laser diagnostics.

The AIAA Publications Committee oversees the search and selection effort for new editors-in-chief. The search committee was led by Publications Committee member Steven Beresh, Sandia National Laboratories. Raghavan was chosen from among a group of highly qualified candidates.

Raghavan received her doctoral degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Purdue University in 2008, and her master’s degree in Aeronautics and Space Technologies at SUPAERO, France. Prior to this, she completed her bachelor’s in mechanical engineering at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. With an extensive AIAA engagement that spans 27 years of membership, election as Associate Fellow, and contributions as part of the Structural Dynamics Technical Committee, she comes with experience as a highly effective leader in research, education, and service in the publications realm.

Raghavan began her career as an engineer in the aerospace industry where she gained seven years of experience in maintenance and structural analysis. During the next 15 years as a faculty member, she built and led a research team in her field of mechanics of aerospace structures and materials, contributing significantly to the area of materials for extreme environments while catalyzing national and international collaboration. Her academic leadership has led to successful creation of a doctoral program in Aerospace Engineering, mentorship of students toward national recognition, and consistent outreach that shapes the next generation of aerospace leaders. She was nationally honored by Women in Aerospace with the Aerospace Educator Award in 2019 and the Butler Center for Leadership Excellence Distinguished Purdue Alumni Award in 2023.

The Progress in Astronautics and Aeronautics series is devoted to books that present a particular well-defined subject reflecting advances in the fields of aerospace science, engineering, and/or technology. In many cases, these are edited collections of papers with multiple chapter contributors.

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AIAA Announcements Special Service Citations Awarded

Two individuals each hold a framed certificate. The first person stands outdoors by a wall, while the second person is indoors in a workspace. Both are smiling and facing the camera.
(L) Duha Bader; (R) Sid Gunasekaran. Credit:

The Regional Engagement Activities Division (READ) awarded two Special Service Citations this summer to volunteer leaders who have gone above and beyond in serving AIAA.

Duha Bader, University of California Davis Graduate
In recognition of exceptional leadership in the planning and execution of the 2023 AIAA Region VI Student Conference at UC Davis.

Sid Gunasekaran, University of Dayton
For outstanding service to AIAA and the University of Dayton Student Branch in the organization of the 2023 AIAA Region III Student Conference.

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AIAA Committees New Happenings at SAT OC

Three individuals are pictured: a man with glasses, a woman with short hair wearing a blazer, and a man in a wheelchair with a tracheostomy tube.
(L to R): Chi Mai, SAT OC Vice-Chair; Claudine Phaire, Chair, AIAA Diversity and Inclusion Working Group; and Ethan Och. Credit: AIAA

By: Amir S. Gohardani, SAT OC Chair

Recently the AIAA Society and Aerospace Technology Outreach Committee (SAT OC) unanimously voted to ratify its updated bylaws to ensure a more strategic approach to current and future committee activities. At the same time, voting was held for the committee chair and vice-chair positions; voting results revealed Chi Mai was elected as the vice-chair of SAT OC and myself as the chair. I congratulate Chi on his new appointment and thank him for his many SAT OC contributions. I am also grateful to all SAT OC’s members for their votes and for putting their faith in me as we continue crafting a more impactful SAT OC. In line with changing times and SAT OC’s bylaws, the committee scope has been expanded. SAT OC promotes the transfer and use of aerospace technology for the benefit of society. Moreover, the committee also examines the relationship and influence that society, culture, and the arts have on aerospace technology. The success stories of this committee have always been about its people and SAT OC is fortunate to collaborate with many committed members in various stages of their aerospace careers and a variety of different functions across government, industry, and non-profit entities. These diverse sets of perspectives and a diverse membership brings unique opportunities for tackling the most difficult challenges affecting the aerospace sector. Notably, this month also marks the ninth Diversity Corner spotlight since I initiated this idea back in March 2022. I am very grateful to Claudine Phaire with the AIAA Diversity and Inclusion Working Group who believed in my vision and whose tireless efforts have made Diversity Corner possible.

Diversity Corner

Name: Ethan Och

Notable Contributions: Oct is a software engineer at Northrop Grumman Corporation. He began his career in the aerospace industry in 2020, after graduating from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities with a Bachelor’s Degree in Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics, as well as with minors in Astrophysics and Computer Science.

Potential Societal Impact of Contributions: Och has worked on satellite ground systems and he currently works on digital transformation technologies to unify engineering and manufacturing processes at Northrop Grumman. He joined the AIAA Diversity Working Group in 2021 and has supported the outreach, recognition, and K-12 education subcommittees. In May 2023, he became chair of the outreach subcommittee. Och is an active member of Disability:IN, and mentors other emerging professionals with disabilities. He strives to increase the accessibility of the aerospace field and aims to increase the representation of people with disabilities in STEM.

*In collaboration with the AIAA Diversity and Inclusion Working Group and Claudine Phaire, SAT OC is highlighting prominent members of the wider aerospace community in the Diversity Corner.

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AIAA Committees Membership Applications Open for 2024/2025 AIAA Technical Committees and Integration and Outreach Committees

The Technical Activities Division (TAD) and Integration and Outreach Division (IOD) work diligently with their committee chairs to maintain a reasonable balance in 1) appropriate representation to the field from industry, research, education, and government; 2) the specialties covered in the specific TC/IOC scopes; and 3) geographical distribution relative to the area’s technical activity. TAD and IOD encourage applications of students and young professionals (those individuals 35 years and younger).

Technical Committees have a 50-person maximum unless approval is granted to exceed that limit. Applicants selected for technical committee membership who are not AIAA members in good standing must become members or renew their membership within 45 days of start of the membership term (1 May–30 April). If you currently serve on a TC/IOC, you will automatically be considered for the 2024/2025 membership term on that committee.

Applications are submitted online, and applicants may submit up to two applications. To apply to two committees, applicants will need to submit two separate forms. The form can be found on the AIAA website at aiaa.org, under My AIAA, Nominations and Voting, Technical Committee Online Application. Applications are due by 16 October 2023 at 2359 hrs Eastern time, after which time the system will close.

Information about the committees can be found at: 
Integration and Outreach Committees  
Technical Committees

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AIAA Committees New Discoveries and the James Webb Space Telescope—2023 SSTC Essay Contest Winners Announced

Grid with six individual headshots of smiling young people against various outdoor backgrounds.
(L to R, top row) Celeste Ivanco, Maia Shadrick, and Rowan LaRose. (L to R, bottom row) Benjamin Santos, Anna Wallace, and Luke McEwen. Credit: AIAA

The AIAA Space Systems Technical Committee’s (SSTC) annual middle school essay contest continues to advance the committee’s commitment to directly inspire students and to involve local AIAA sections in educational pursuits. Each year, local sections sponsor parallel contests to feed into selection of national award winners recognized by the SSTC.

Seventh and eighth grade students were invited to participate. This year, AIAA local sections from across the country submitted entries to the contest. Participating sections included Hampton Roads, Palm Beach, Rocky Mountain, Greater Huntsville, National Capital Section and Southwest Texas. For each grade, the first-, second-, and third-place winners were awarded $125, $75, and $50 prizes, respectively. The six students also received a one-year student membership with AIAA. The 2023 essay topic was “Choose one aspect of the James Webb Space Telescope, describe how it works, and explain why it leads us to new discoveries and to answer important questions about the universe.”

The first-place winner for 8th grade is Celeste Ivanco of Yorktown, Virginia (Hampton Roads Section). The second-place winner for 8th grade is Maia Shadrick of Huntsville, Alabama (Greater Huntsville Section). The third-place winner for 8th grade is Rowan LaRose of Sedalia, Colorado (Rocky Mountain Section).

The first-place winner for 7th grade is Benjamin Santos of Aurora, Colorado (Rocky Mountain Section). The second-place winner for 7th grade is Anna Wallace of Owens Cross Roads, Alabama (Greater Huntsville Section). The third-place winner for 7th grade is Luke McEwen of Yorktown, Virginia (Hampton Roads Section).

All 2023 winning essays can be found below. The topic for 2024 is “Explore the profound effects of space observation on a particular industry of your choice. Investigate how advancements in satellite technology have revolutionized this industry’s practices, strategies, and overall impact. Consider the differences in data resolution (spatial, temporal, spectral) obtained on the ground, from an airplane, or in space. Discuss how space observation has either complemented or replaced the other observation methods of the chosen industry.” If you, your school, or section is interested in participating in the 2024 contest, contact Shane Vigil, Smrithi Keerthivarman, or your local section for more details.

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AIAA Committees Choose One Aspect of the James Webb Space Telescope, Describe How It Works, and Explain Why It Leads Us to New Discoveries and to Answer Important Questions About the Universe (1st Place, 8th Grade)

James Webb Space Telescope

Celeste Ivanco, Tabb Middle School
Teacher: Erin Watson

NASA recently launched a new telescope on December 25, 2021. This is the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST or Webb), whose primary goals are to study planet, star, and galaxy formation in the Universe. One of the new properties of JWST is the ability to use infrared light to penetrate dust clouds to see the processes leading to these formations. The Hubble Space Telescope, the one right before JWST, was designed more for ultraviolet and visible light, where JWST is for infrared. This new technology is helping us see formations as early as the Big Bang, and it will have a great impact on science.

Webb is able to penetrate through dense dust clouds that are opaque to visible and ultraviolet light. While Hubble took an amazing picture of the Pillars of Creation, we couldn’t see inside as the clouds were blocking our view. However, with Webb, we are able to see the stars and their formations because of the infrared light. Infrared light is essentially heat, and while our eyes (visible light) can’t pick up on those stars, infrared can. For example, if there is a mouse in a wall, we won’t be able to see it with visible light, but with infrared picking up on the heat, we are able to see through the wall. This is the same with the dust clouds. However, it takes light time to travel from there to here, so the farther we look, the further back in time we travel. The Universe is constantly expanding, so the farther we look, the faster objects are moving away from us, redshifting the light.

When light becomes redshifted, it is shifted more and more to redder wavelengths. Similar to the Doppler Effect, wavelengths from light that is emitted as ultraviolet or visible light become longer. The Doppler Effect is when sound waves from a moving object get stretched from when the object pushes against the sound waves, making the longer waves behind it have the illusion of having a lower frequency. Because the Universe is constantly expanding, the space between stars, galaxies, and planets is also expanding, making it seem as if the light they’re emitting has a longer wavelength than what it actually is. Therefore, to study the earliest star and galaxy formations, we need to observe using infrared light, like Webb. For very high redshifts, light will go into near- and mid-infrared light, which are different intensities of infrared. They are measured of how far they are from visible light.

Webb uses this near-infrared and mid-infrared light to view the star formations. Near-infrared is used to penetrate the dust clouds and view these formations. It has a longer wavelength and is less inconvenienced by the dust particles, so it is able to seep through the clouds. Mid-infrared has a longer wavelength than near-infrared. Objects of about Earth’s temperature emit most of their light at mid-infrared light. These temperatures are also found in dusty clouds where stars and planets form, so with mid-infrared light we can see their glow. Because we are able to see this mildly warm dust, we are able to study distribution and properties of star and planet formations.

These new groundbreaking technologies allow Webb to make discoveries in a way that has never been used before. Previously, we weren’t able to see the stars and planets through dust clouds because the dust blocked ultraviolet and visible light. But now with Webb, we are able to penetrate those dust clouds with infrared light and see the glow of objects. Infrared light also helps us see far because the Universe is expanding, so the farther we look, the faster objects are moving away from us, redshifting the light. This is very exciting because this has never been accomplished until now, and it will help us understand our origins.

Works Cited

Gianopoulos, Andrea. “Observatory – Hubble vs. Webb.” NASA, 13 Dec. 2021, www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/hubble-vs-webb-on-the-shoulders-of-a-giant.

“Infrared Detectors Webb/NASA.” Nasa.gov, 2014, jwst.nasa.gov/content/about/innovations/infrared.html.

Spinoffs, Webb, and Nasa Gov. National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

“Star Lifecycle – Webb/NASA.” Webb.nasa.gov, webb.nasa.gov/content/science/birth.html.

Technologies for the James Webb Space Telescope.

“Webb’s Infrared Universe.” Www.esa.int, www.esa.int/ESA_Multimedia/Videos/2022/03/Webb_s_infrared_Universe/(lang). Accessed 30 Mar. 2023.

“Why Study the Universe in Infrared?” Www.esa.int, www.esa.int/ESA_Multimedia/Images/2021/06/Why_study_the_Universe_in_infrared.

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AIAA Committees Choose One Aspect of the James Webb Space Telescope, Describe How It Works, and Explain Why It Leads Us to New Discoveries and to Answer Important Questions About the Universe (2nd Place, 8th Grade)

The James Webb Telescope: Peeking into the Past to Focus on the Future

Maia Shadrick, Whitesburg Christian Academy
Teacher: Devin Pond

The James Webb Telescope, which has been in space for almost a year and a half, is the largest and most powerful telescope NASA has ever made. This telescope was built by organizations from Europe, Canada, and the USA. While it orbits our solar system, it uses its powerful components to see beyond our solar system. For example, the James Webb Telescope has found two Super-Earths, or planets unlike any in our solar system. The four main components of the telescope are the Optical Telescope Element (OTE), the sun shield, the spacecraft bus, and the Integrated Science Instrument Module. The Integrated Science Instrument Module, or ISIM, consists of four elements, the Near-Infrared Camera, the Near-Infrared Spectrograph, the Mid-Infrared Instrument, and the Fine Guidance Sensor (FGS)/Near-InfraRed Imager and Slitless Spectrograph (NIRISS).

The FGS and NIRISS work together, but they are separate instruments. The FGS is controlled by the telescope, however, NIRISS is independent. These systems were built as joint projects between companies in Canada and the US. The FGS and NIRISS are used to detect and characterize exoplanets. The instruments have a wavelength range between .6 – 5 micrometers.

The Fine Guidance System focuses on keeping the telescope aimed correctly at the target. The FGS acts as a guide to ensure the James Webb Telescope takes the correct pictures. It also allows scientists to have accurate measurements of the distance between two points. The FGS will use the guide star to send corrections 16 times every second. These corrections will be sent to the James Webb Telescope’s attitude control system or ACS. Unlike the other four instruments of ISIM, the Fine Guidance System will be used for every observation the telescope partakes in.

The NIRISS is designed for Near-Infrared Imaging, wide-field slitless spectroscopy, single-object slitless spectroscopy, and aperture masking interferometry. Near-Infrared Imaging is used to assess a solar system for light from early stars, the concentration of stars in a specific area, and the development of young stars. Wide-field slitless spectroscopy is a tool that scatters the light of any object in the telescope’s view. This creates a rainbow-like image that will overlap for observation. Single-object slitless spectroscopy produces three rainbow-like pictures of the targets. The aperture masking interferometry ensures the production of a higher-quality image. These parts of NIRISS will work together to create impressive pictures of the universe.

The FGS and NIRISS help to lead us to discoveries because of the high-quality pictures they can take. As aforementioned, the James Webb Telescope is the most powerful telescope made by NASA. While other telescopes may only be able to take blurry pictures of faraway stars, this telescope can capture clear images of unseen stars and solar systems. It has found many new galaxies and will continue to find many more. We can observe the catastrophes which plague other planets to prevent similar events from happening on our planet. We could also observe the formation and life of different stars. Also, it has detected light from the beginning of the universe. The powerful cameras allow the telescope to send images of far-away astronomical bodies while staying in our solar system!

We can now answer important questions about the universe because of these discoveries. For example, we could discover other planets like ours. We could answer the question, “Is there life other than life on Earth?” Also, we could receive a better understanding of how our solar system works, and how long our star will sustain us. This would help us to calculate when our sun will die and prepare for the event of our sun dying. These would all help us to preserve life on Earth. We could answer the fundamental question, “When did our universe begin?” The James Webb Telescope can detect light from the beginning of the universe, which would allow us to calculate the age of the universe.

The James Webb Telescope has been instrumental in many of the recent consequential discoveries of the universe. The FGS/NIRISS is key in providing the images from the telescope. It and all of its components are carefully designed to capture the best possible images. Thanks to the James Webb Telescope, we will continue to make significant discoveries of the many galaxies which surround us from the sanctuary of our solar system.

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AIAA Committees Choose One Aspect of the James Webb Space Telescope, Describe How It Works, and Explain Why It Leads Us to New Discoveries and to Answer Important Questions About the Universe (3rd Place, 8th Grade)

The James Webb Telescope’s Mirror is Going to Amaze Us

Rowan LaRose, STEM School Highlands Ranch
Teacher: Dr. Wallin-Miller

The James Webb Telescope has so much potential to discover so many new things. It has various things that give it this potential. It could be the sunshield, or the way that it orbits the sun at the second lagrange point. But an extremely crucial part of this telescope is the large reflective mirror that takes over the shape of a hexagon. This mirror does so many things that give it the potential to make all of these discoveries. Some very unique things that are crucial to know about this mirror is the reasoning for the gold coloring, the way that it compares to the Hubble space telescope, and how it can see galaxies from billions of years ago.

To start, one really important part of this famous telescope is the large gold reflective mirror. The telescope mirror has a total area of 25m² and a diameter of 6.5m. Since the mirror is so big it normally couldn’t fit into a rocket to be sent into space. But, the telescope mirror is designed to fold and unfold easily to fit into a rocket. The mirror is made of a gold material and reflects the light onto another small mirror and onto a camera lens where the infrared waves are transformed into electrical energy and then into a photo. According to the article, The Gold Plating on the James Webb Space Telescope is Much Thinner than Human Hair, “This metal is extremely reflective of both visible light and other forms of radiation, particularly in the infrared range.”(Cohn, 2022). This shows the important reason why the mirror is gold in color because it better reflects other types of light other than just visible light.

The James Webb telescope isn’t the only telescope that has been released into space. The Hubble Space Telescope was released into space back in 1990. It has a very similar mission compared to the James Webb telescope. It is designed to be able to see stars and galaxies from millions, and even billions of light years away. Unlike the James Webb Telescope it has a much smaller mirror that is only 2.4m in diameter. Remember, the James Webb Telescope’s mirror has 6.5m in diameter which is almost three times the size of the Hubble.

Additionally, it is very important for these telescopes to have as high of an exposure as possible. A way to increase the exposure and collect more photons is to widen the lens. For example, when you are taking a picture with a camera a way to increase the exposure of your photo is to widen the lens. This same concept applies to space telescopes. This is crucial because these galaxies are so far away we are already receiving very few photons as it is. The bigger the mirror, the more photons can be reflected therefore increasing the exposure. As said earlier, these telescopes are taking pictures of galaxies that are billions of light years away. The bigger the exposure the better, so the fact that the James Webb telescope has a mirror nearly three times the size of the Hubble will help the telescope capture much better photos.

Secondly, the mirrors of the two telescopes have different colors. This is for a reason. As mentioned earlier the James Webb Telescope mirror is gold because it can capture electromagnetic waves beyond visible light, such as infrared light. But the Hubble Telescope has a silver mirror. This means that the Hubble can not capture infrared waves like the James Webb can. Scientists and aerospace engineers have learned from this and have improved when making the James Webb Telescope. It is planned to see so much more with the James Webb telescope than the Hubble because of this feature.

Lastly, one of the James Webb Telescope’s main goals is to see galaxies from billions of light years ago. Some may ask why we are looking at galaxies from billions of years ago when we could be looking at them now? Well an interesting fact is, that we can’t. It takes visible light billions of years to travel to us because these galaxies are billions of light years away. This means we are receiving the light from these galaxies billions of years ago. This can actually help us be able to see how the origins of many galaxies were formed. This could help us even be able to tell if life used to or currently is living in some of these galaxies. Maybe figure out if life exists differently than we already know it to be. Yet there is no way to be sure of what these things actually look like today. Scientists and aerospace engineers can make predictions on what they think these galaxies will look like, but again, we can never be sure. This is another reason why it is so important for the mirror on the telescope to be as big as possible. The goal is to capture as many photons as possible to get clear images for scientists to analyze.

In conclusion, the James Webb space telescope does not only have the potential to discover many new things, it also possibly has the potential to discover even more than the famous Hubble Space Telescope that has amazed people for many years. The James Webb telescope is able to capture images of waves that are not even visible to the human eye. This telescope has the potential to do so much and is about to amaze us.


Cohn, H. (2022, July 12). The Gold Plating on the James Webb Space Telescope is Much Thinner than Human Hair. McGill University. Retrieved April 12, 2023, from https://www.mcgill.ca/oss/article/student-contributors-general-science/gold-plating-james-webb-space-telescope-much-thinner-human-hair

Comparison: Webb vs Hubble Telescope – Webb/NASA. (n.d.). James Webb Space Telescope. Retrieved April 12, 2023, from https://webb.nasa.gov/content/about/comparisonWebbVsHubble.html.

HUBBLE SPACE TELESCOPE. (n.d.). Space Telescope Science Institute. Retrieved April 12, 2023, from https://www.stsci.edu/hst

Hubble-Webb Mirror Comparison. (n.d.). WebbTelescope.org. Retrieved April 12, 2023, from https://webbtelescope.org/contents/media/images/4181-Image

James Webb Space Telescope. (2022, December 1). NASA. Retrieved April 12, 2023, from https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/webb/main/index.html

Noel, D. (n.d.). Mirrors Webb/NASA. James Webb Space Telescope. Retrieved April 12, 2023, from https://webb.nasa.gov/content/observatory/ote/mirrors/index.html

Scarr, S., Chowdhury, J., & Sharma, M. (2021, December 23). James Webb telescope and how it works. Reuters. Retrieved April 12, 2023, from https://www.reuters.com/graphics/SPACE-EXPLORATION/TELESCOPE/klvyknwbrvg/

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AIAA Committees Choose One Aspect of the James Webb Space Telescope, Describe How It Works, and Explain Why It Leads Us to New Discoveries and to Answer Important Questions About the Universe (1st Place, 7th Grade)

James Webb Space Telescope

Benjamin Santos, Sky Visa Middle School – Cherry Creek Schools
Teacher: Julie Glenn

The James Webb Space Telescope is an amazing advancement of space technology which may prove extremely useful to scientists and astronomers. Orbiting the sun 1.5 million kilometers from Earth, it has already revealed many amazing images to scientists on Earth. The first of these was Webb’s First Deep Field, which was revealed by President Joe Biden on July 11, 2022.

These amazing images, which may be vital to learning more about our universe, would not have been possible without the many components that make up the James Webb Telescope. The Integrated Science Instrument Module (ISIM) is a key component to Webb. The ISIM contains the Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam), the Mid-Infrared Spectrograph (MIRI), the Fine Guidance Sensor/Near InfraRed Imager and Slitless Spectrograph FGS/NIRISS, and perhaps the most important, the Near-Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec).

Not to be confused with the NIRCam, NIRSpec operates on an infrared wavelength range of 0.6 to 5 micrometers. “A spectrograph (also sometimes called a spectrometer) is used to disperse light from an object into a spectrum.” (webb.nasa.gov). Using spectrums, scientists can find out valuable information about an object, such as physical properties, like temperature, mass, and chemical composition.

This is invaluable to scientists and astronomers because if James Webb captures enough light from any celestial object, such as a galaxy or a star, even, to create a spectrum, scientists can analyze that spectrum. Doing so may unlock secrets about the universe previously unknown to humankind. However, James Webb’s mission period is only five years, starting from Christmas 2021.

As of now, over a year of Webb’s five has elapsed. And to add onto that, most of the celestial objects that Webb is studying, such as some of the first galaxies formed following the Big Bang, are so faint that Webb’s mirrors must face them for hundreds of hours to collect enough light to form a good spectrum. In order to be able to maximize its mission time, Webb was programmed to look at 100 objects simultaneously. While this sounds impossible, Goddard scientists and engineers invented entirely new technology to install into NIRSpec.

This technology, called a “microshutter array”, contains approximately 250,000 individual shutters, or “windows”, that can be controlled individually to open or close via a magnetic field. It took over six years to perfect, and each shutter had to be opened thousands of times to get it just right. This long amount of time required to design the new technology should promise top-of-the-line technology for the James Webb Telescope. Each shutter is 100 by 200 micrometers in dimension, or about the width of a human hair.

Although the microshutter arrays had much potential, there were some challenges when designing the new technology. For example, NIRSpec operates at cryogenic temperatures, so the microshutters had to be able to open and close without, for example, freezing shut at such frigid temperatures. Other design challenges were present, such as the need for the microshutters to be able to open and close repeatedly (if needed) without fatigue. Not only did they need to be able to resist fatigue, they had to have the ability to open completely individually, and open wide enough to meet science requirements for space viewing.

In order to resist fatigue, scientists chose to incorporate silicon nitride into the microshutters. Silicon nitride has very high strength and high resistance to fatigue. In order to be able to control the microshutters individually, they are able to be commanded to open or close using a magnetic arm. The arm sweeps past, and controls when it sends out an electric signal or not. The microshutters, when they receive one of the electric signals, open or close based on the signal. The microshutters, when open, will allow light into the system to create a spectrum. When closed, they will block unwanted light that would otherwise disrupt a perfect spectrum.

This allows Webb to view its 100 objects all at once, and create good spectrums for each of them. The magnetic arm opens certain microshutters that will allow the light in from specific celestial bodies, while blocking light from unwanted ones. For example, if there is an extremely faint galaxy that Webb wants to study, and a very bright star that it doesn’t, the bright star would interfere with the light from the faint galaxy, and therefore potentially ruin the galaxy’s spectrum. So Webb would open one (or however many it needs) microshutters to view the faint galaxy, but keep many closed to block light from the bright star. This would allow the light from the faint galaxy to create a much more accurate spectrum than if the bright star was interfering.

Utilizing all of NIRSpec’s abilities can lead us to discover much about the universe. Scientists will use NIRSpec and all of its technological advancements, specially designed for interstellar research, designed over several years for NIRSpec, to learn many things about our universe.

Webb will use its abilities to study some of the first galaxies to form after the Big Bang. It will point its microshutters at distant galaxies-so distant, in fact, that Webb will only see them as being a few years old, when, in reality, they are millions or billions of years old. These galaxies, which Webb will view as very young, appear that way because light only travels so fast. The light from these galaxies takes millions to billions of years to reach our solar system. So, it will be millions of years more for anything in the solar system to see it as it is now-and by then, it will have changed again.

So, when Webb studies these galaxies, scientists can study their perfect spectrums, courtesy of James Webb, to learn more about what the galaxy was like billions of years ago, right after the Big Bang. While the James Webb Telescope does have many carefully constructed parts, the Near-Infrared Camera, with its all-new microshutters, is by far the most important, which scientists will utilize to learn more about the universe.

Works Cited

In Depth | James Webb Space Telescope – NASA Solar System Exploration. (n.d.). NASA Solar System Exploration.

Instruments and ISIM (Integrated Science Instrument Module) Webb/NASA. (n.d.). https://webb.nasa.gov/content/observatory/instruments/index.html

The James Webb Space Telescope Observatory. (n.d.). NASA. https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/webb/observatory/index.html

Microshutters Webb/NASA. (n.d.). https://webb.nasa.gov/content/about/innovations/microshutters.html

Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam) Instrument Webb/NASA. (n.d.). https://webb.nasa.gov/content/observatory/instruments/nircam.html

Near Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec) Instrument Webb/NASA. (n.d.). https://webb.nasa.gov/content/observatory/instruments/nirspec.html

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AIAA Committees Choose One Aspect of the James Webb Space Telescope, Describe How It Works, and Explain Why It Leads Us to New Discoveries and to Answer Important Questions About the Universe (2nd Place, 7th Grade)

The Backbone of the James Webb Space Telescope

Anna Wallace, Whitesburg Christian Academy
Teacher: Devin Pond

The James Webb Space Telescope, also called the JWST, is a telescope designed and built by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) that launched on December 25, 2021. The JWST was designed for a special mission, to find out more about the places inside and outside of our solar system. It will search for and discover new things about the galaxies created during the very beginning of the universe, and the formations of other solar systems with planets that could support life, similar to our solar system and planet Earth. Images from the JWST are studied by scientists who are then able to draw conclusions to questions humans have been asking about the universe for hundreds of years. Its journey will last up to a decade from its launch and will be filled with amazing findings, broken barriers, and incredible works thanks to its amazing technology.

The technology of the JWST is filled with innovations and inventions that have helped change the world. From its eighteen-part mirror, infrared detectors, and tennis court-sized sunshield to its ingeniously designed microshutters, the James Webb Space Telescope is filled with some of the world’s greatest scientific advancements. However, I think the most important and significant innovation of all is the telescope’s backplane. The backplane is made of lightweight graphite connected by fittings made of invar and titanium. It is made up of the secondary mirror support, the BSF (backplane support fixture), and the structure that deploys the telescope off of its spacecraft. The backplane of the JWST is the supporting factor of all its scientific instruments and other components, though its most important role is motionlessly holding the mirrors of the telescope.

The mirrors of the telescope are used to reflect light from deep space onto the infrared detectors, so images can be created and studied. For the mirrors to be able to do this, they must remain completely still. If they move even a small amount, they would not be able to focus on the light coming from deep space causing the images to have inadequate quality. The backplane can be held almost motionless up to thirty-two nanometers which helps the mirrors remain incredibly still. The motionlessness of the backplane ensures the images’ supreme quality. The backplane is also the supporter of the entire telescope, holding about 2.5 tons of weight. Without the backplane, the scientific equipment would have almost no support and would not be secure. Also, without it, images made by the telescope would be unfocused and hard to study.

By supporting the entire James Webb Space Telescope, the backplane helps discoveries be made about the universe’s galaxies and solar systems since it holds all the cameras, infrared detectors, and mirrors, all essential equipment for images to be created. The JWST is a new and exciting tool that scientists are using to make discoveries and the backplane is a big part of it. As you can see, the backplane is an essential innovation of the James Webb Space Telescope that provides support, ensures supreme image quality, and holds together the telescope’s structure, but most importantly, helps lead us to new and exciting discoveries about the universe.

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AIAA Committees Choose One Aspect of the James Webb Space Telescope, Describe How It Works, and Explain Why It Leads Us to New Discoveries and to Answer Important Questions About the Universe (3rd Place, 7th Grade)

James Webb Space Telescope: Fine Guiding System

Luke McEwen, Summit Christian Academy
Teacher: Lindsey Ralls

Have you tried exploring space with no way to precisely observe the space around you? The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is a highly anticipated space observatory set which launched in 2021. It is equipped with advanced technology that will enable it to observe the universe in unprecedented detail, including its formation, evolution, and the formation of galaxies, stars, and planets. Its four main instruments include the Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam), Near Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec), Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI), and Fine Guidance Sensor/Near InfraRed Imager and Slitless Spectrograph (FGS/NIRISS). The JWST’s cutting-edge technology and capabilities will enable us to make numerous new discoveries about the universe and answer important questions about our place in it.

The FGS is the topic of this essay. The Fine Guidance Sensor (FGS) on the JWST is a set of instruments designed to precisely measure the positions of guide stars, which are used to stabilize the telescope and accurately point it at its targets. Guide stars keep the telescope accurately oriented, allowing for the observation of targets with high precision. It has two cameras used for precise pointing and tracking of the telescope. The FGS also measures the position and movement of the telescope, making it possible to compensate for any drift or wobble. This is critical to observe faint and distant objects. This also allows the JWST to take high-definition images. Overall, the FGS is an essential component of the JWST’s scientific capabilities and functions.

The Fine Guidance System (FGS) on the James Webb Space Telescope leads us to new discoveries in several ways. Firstly, the FGS allows the JWST to precisely point and track targets. This precision pointing and tracking enables the JWST to achieve its highest possible image resolution, which allows astrophysicists to see structures and features in the universe that were previously undiscovered. By seeing more of the universe in unprecedented detail, the JWST can uncover new phenomena and help researchers to expand their understanding of the universe. Secondly, the FGS is critical in exoplanet studies. Exoplanets are planets that orbits a star other than our own Sun; similarly, to another earth or planet capable of having life. Finally, the FGS can help scientists study the creation and history of the universe. By tracking the positions and movements of distant galaxies, scientists can gain information on how these structures were formed and how they evolved over time.

The FGS is responsible for pointing the telescope with extreme accuracy, stability, and efficiency. Without it a variety of bad things could happen to the FGS, JWST, or info given to astronomers. With the JWST countless possibilities are waiting to be discovered. The JWST is a major key to understanding our universe.

The James Webb Space Telescope’s Fine Guidance Sensor (FGS) is a crucial instrument that will enable us to study the dynamics of stars, galaxies, and black holes with unprecedented precision. It will also allow us to search for potentially habitable planets and study the atmospheres of exoplanets. The JWST FGS is a remarkable technological achievement, and its scientific potential is immense.

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Obituary AIAA Fellow Bainum Died in April 2020

Peter Bainum, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Aerospace Engineering, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Howard University, died on 3 April 2020.

Bainum received a B.S. in Aeronautical Engineering from Texas A&M, an M.S. in Aeronautics and Astronautics from MIT, and a Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering from Catholic University. He then completed a NASA/ASEE Faculty Fellowship.

Bainum worked for Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory as a senior engineer and consultant; he was a staff engineer with the IBM Federal Systems Division; and he also was a senior engineer with Martin Marietta Corporation. Later he consulted for NASA and other aerospace organizations with a specialization in spacecraft attitude dynamics and control.

A respected scientist and distinguished educator, Bainum received numerous awards including the SAE Teetor Award for Engineering Educators, Outstanding Faculty Award from the Howard University Graduate School, the American Astronautical Society (AAS) Dirk Brouwer Award, the Spark M. Matsunaga Memorial Award for International Cooperation in Space, and the IAF Malina Award for Outstanding Contributions to Space Education. AIAA honored him with a 2005 Sustained Service Award and the 2008 International Cooperation Award. Bainum was a Fellow of AAS, the American Astronautical Society, AIAA, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the British Interplanetary Society, and he was an Honorary Member of the Japanese Rocket Society.

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Obituary AIAA Fellow Narasimha Died in December 2020

Indian aerospace and fluid dynamics scientist Roddam Narasimha died 14 December 2020.

After earning a bachelor degree in engineering from Mysore University (University College of Engineering) in 1953, Narasimha worked with Satish Dhawan, an important scholar in experimental fluid dynamics research in India, during his master’s degree from the Indian Institute of Science. He then worked with Hans Liepmann at Caltech, obtaining his Ph.D. in 1961. In 1982, he founded the Centre for Atmospheric Sciences (now Centre for Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences), which he headed until 1989.

Narasimha held positions as professor of Aerospace Engineering at the Indian Institute of Science (1962–1999), director of the National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) (1984–1993), and the chairman of the Engineering Mechanics Unit at Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR), then Bangalore. As Director of NAL he initiated several major technological programs and was instrumental in establishing a major parallel computing initiative in India. At the end of his long career, he was the DST Year-of-Science Chair Professor at JNCASR and concurrently held the Pratt & Whitney Chair in Science and Engineering at the University of Hyderabad. In 2013, Narasimha was awarded the Padma Vibhushan, India’s second highest civilian award.

For many years Narasimha held a visiting position at Caltech as the Clark B Millikan Professor and Sherman Fairchild distinguished scholar. From 1989 to 1990 he was the Jawaharlal Nehru Professor of Engineering at Cambridge University in England. Narasimha’s research focused on transitions between laminar and turbulent flow, the structure of shock waves, various characteristics of fully developed turbulent flow, the fluid dynamics of clouds, near-surface temperature distributions and eddy fluxes in atmospheric boundary layers. He was closely associated with aerospace technology development in India at both technical and policymaking levels.

Widely honored for his research and scientific leadership, Narasimha received the Trieste Science Prize by TWAS in 2008. He received the 2000 AIAA Fluid Dynamics Award. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society, and a Foreign Associate of both the U.S. National Academy of Engineering and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. In India, he was a Fellow of all the National Academies of Science and Engineering, and an Honorary Fellow of the Aeronautical Society of India.

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Obituary AIAA Fellow Martin Died in November 2022

An older man with short white hair and glasses, smiling and wearing a blue shirt under a dark sweater.
Richard Martin. Credit: Martin family

Richard “Dick” Martin died on 20 November 2022. He was 94.

Martin graduated in 1951 with the highest honors from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign with an M.S. in Aeronautical Engineering. He was recruited by Convair/General Dynamics San Diego and became the first structural dynamicist on the Atlas project. He worked on all versions of Atlas, from the MX-1593 of 1953 through the Atlas IIAS of 1993; in his career, he rose from a junior engineer to manager of a Dynamics Group in his 44-year career with General Dynamics.

He retired in 1994, but continued as a consultant, doing critical analytical work on using the Russian RD-180 engine with the Atlas. This proved the viability of what became the Atlas III and Atlas V space launch vehicles.

A 73-year member of AIAA, Martin received the 1994 AIAA Faculty Advisor Award, was elected a Fellow of AIAA, and served as a Distinguished Lecturer. On the section level he was recognized for Outstanding Contributions to Aerospace Engineering in 1989, Outstanding Contributions to AIAA at the national level in 1998, and the section’s highest award – the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009.

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Obituary AIAA Associate Fellow Aldrich Died in April 2023

A black-and-white portrait of an elderly woman with short, brushed-back hair, wearing a blazer and a necklace. She is looking directly at the camera with a slight smile.
Eleanor Aldrich. Credit: Aldrich family

Eleanor Aldrich died on 7 April 2023, at the age of 85.

She earned a B.S. from the University of Massachusetts, and held positions as an educator and a realtor before holding leadership roles at the Houston Chamber of Commerce and the Houston Economic Development Council. In 1990, Aldrich began a career at AIAA. During her first decade with AIAA she and her team organized and executed over 200 aerospace technology conferences worldwide. Later she led business development and helped lay the groundwork for AIAA’s expansion into commercial space opportunities. Upon leaving AIAA she formed a consulting company through which she continued her support of aerospace industry events through AIAA, the International Aerospace Federation, and other technical organizations. Aldrich was a recipient of the 2009 WIA Aerospace Awareness Award.

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Obituary AIAA Educator Associate Telles Died in May 2023

A man with a name tag is showing a paper model to a group of children in a library, with shelves of books in the background.
John Telles. Credit: AIAA

Col. John Telles Jr. (Ret.), AIAA San Diego Section K-12 STEM officer, died on 25 May 2023, at the age of 84.

A retired Marine pilot who flew the Marine One presidential helicopter during the Nixon and Ford administrations, Telles became a tireless advocate for careers in aerospace, believing that “Kids and aviation just go together.” As the co-founder of AeroED Group AeroSpace STEM in El Cajon, CA, he served as the senior partner and operations director. He was an inspiring speaker and addressed students of all ages and coordinated aerospace education activities with many organizations. He served as coordinator for Teacher and Youth airplane flight projects with EAA Young Eagles and Eagle Flight, and volunteered on various aviation education programs with Air Group ONE, Commemorative Air Force (CAF), for at least five years where he was their operations and events coordinator, and STEM Youth Education Director. He also volunteered as an educator at St. Joseph Academy, San Marcos, CA for seven years.

For the past decade, Telles served on the K-12 STEM Committee of the AIAA San Diego Section Council, and chaired the committee the last few years. He was named Veteran of the Year by the Vista Chamber of Commerce in 2021. As the keynote speaker for the 14th Annual Veterans Day celebration at Cal State Fullerton, Telles aimed his presentation at the students in the audience, telling them to pursue their dreams with “integrity, determination, persistence, and tenacity. You must not be deterred,” he said. “You must not let anyone talk you out of doing anything you find valuable.”

The San Diego Section and the youth of our community whom he inspired will greatly miss him.

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Obituary AIAA Fellow Naderi Died in June 2023

Firouz M. Naderi died on June 9. He was 77.

Naderi left Iran in 1964 to attend Iowa State University, where he received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. After earning a doctorate in digital image processing at the University of Southern California, he returned to Iran in 1976.

He worked for the Iranian government as director of the Iranian Remote Sensing Agency, which used satellite data from the American Landsat program to monitor Iran’s natural resources, until the Islamic revolution toppled the monarchy in 1979. Naderi went to Los Angeles, where he was hired by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory as a telecommunications engineer and he developed an interest in space science.

He worked in various technical jobs and then executive positions, related first to satellite programs and then to space exploration. Naderi was appointed to manage NASA’s Mars program in 2000. He is credited with retooling it after a couple of previous failures.

He supervised the Mars Odyssey, a spacecraft launched in 2001 that is still orbiting the planet, collecting data to find out what Mars is made of and to detect water and ice. In 2004, he oversaw the landings of the robots Spirit and Opportunity, which explored the planet’s surface. In 2006, he oversaw the launch of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which is also looking for evidence of water. And he ran the Mars Sample Return program, which is scheduled to launch in two phases in 2027 and 2028 with the goal of returning samples collected by an earlier rover to Earth.

After leaving the Mars program Naderi became an associate director at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, overseeing new project strategies. He was later the laboratory’s director of solar system exploration, overseeing missions to Saturn, Jupiter and Europa, which included laying the groundwork for NASA’s plan to launch an orbiter to circle Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons, to search for extraterrestrial life.

Naderi retired from NASA in 2016. He was recognized with NASA’s highest award, the Distinguished Service Medal, and an Ellis Island Medal of Honor for distinguished contributions to American society. The International Astronomical Union named an asteroid, 5515 Naderi, after him at NASA’s request.

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September 2023 AIAA Bulletin