Aviation Week’s 2021’S “20 Twenties” – Recognizing Budding Innovators in Aerospace & Defense!

In an uplifting STEM education roundup highlighting leading young intellectuals in aerospace and defense (A&D) posted 5-October on Aviationweek.com, Lindsay Bjerregaard noted the following:

“Innovation and new ideas have always been critical to advancement in the aerospace and defense industry, but the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of embracing change to move forward. Younger, more tech-savvy generations quickly adapted to learning in virtual environments, and some of the most exceptional students even leveraged technologies to effect change during the unprecedented circumstances.

“Aviation Week Network’s annual 20 Twenties program recognizes young, rising stars within the aerospace and defense (A&D) industry. Aviation Week collaborates with universities around the world to identify 20 exceptional undergraduate students or those in master’s degree programs who are working to solve challenges within the A&D industry. A panel composed of hiring managers, engineers and academics evaluates and scores nominees based on academic performance, civic contribution and the value of each student’s research or design project.

“This year, many of the winners were distinguished by their use of industry technologies to address social problems such as improving access to transportation for physically limited people and improving delivery of crucial resources to people in need. While pandemic restrictions prevented in-person gatherings, some winners used virtual technologies to continue their efforts to mentor fellow students and provide science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) outreach to their communities.  …The 20 Twenties program is held in partnership with Accenture, premier sponsor Hexcel and is sponsored by Boeing.”  We are sharing the list of honored individuals and the descriptions of their work to celebrate their achievements:

Michaela Adams, B.S. Cyber Intelligence and Security • Class of 2021 • Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
As part of Adams’ undergraduate research, she served as project manager for Embry-Riddle’s Secure UAS project, which developed ways to prevent transmission of data from spoofed or malicious unmanned aircraft systems. She was president of Embry-Riddle’s Cyber Defense Club and completed cybersecurity and intelligence internships at the Center for International Cyber Intelligence, Disneyland and Garmin International.

Rachel Cueva, B.S. Aerospace Engineering • Class of 2021 • University of Maryland
Cueva’s undergraduate research was on improving future spacecraft and habitats. Her Gemstone Honors College research on robotic capabilities for operation and maintenance of space habitats won “Best in Theme” at NASA’s Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concepts-Academic Linkages (RASC-AL) competition and was accepted to the 2019 NASA eXploration Systems and Habitation Challenge, receiving funding and the opportunity to collaborate with NASA engineers to tailor research toward the NASA Lunar Gateway. In independent research, Cueva is studying electrostatic dust lofting on asteroids and the plasma environment in craters.

Daniel Gochenaur, B.S. Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering • Class of 2021 • Purdue University
Gochenaur has completed three internships with the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), where his team developed conceptual hypersonic vehicles and technologies. His project using modern-day design frameworks to “design” the 1950s-era X-15 hypersonic aircraft won AIAA’s SciTech 2020 Forum’s “Best in Session” award for the Presentation Tools and Processes session. He also interned at Boeing Phantom Works and earned the Churchill Scholarship for future studies at Cambridge University.

Shreyasvi Gowda, Undergraduate Student, Mechanical Engineering • Class of 2022 • Cornell University
Gowda is collaborating with the AFRL to research the use of polymerized liquid metal networks in fabric for wearable electronics and soft robotics applications. These electronics could be integrated into materials for military uniforms to monitor biometric data. Gowda is also designing and manufacturing a composite airframe for an electric vertical-takeoff-and-landing (eVTOL) vehicle for Cornell University’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems project team, which is building an autonomous search-and-rescue drone to transport medical supplies and resources to isolated people.

Niloy Gupta, Dual B.S. Aerospace Engineering and Mathematics • Class of 2021 • University of Maryland
As the flight systems lead and test pilot for the University of Maryland’s (UMD) experimental advancing blade concept project, Gupta helped to design an electric coaxial helicopter with a variable center-of-gravity control system. He developed the control algorithms and code to run the helicopter, which placed third at the 2019 AIAA Regional Student Conference. He was a member of UMD’s Design Build Fly team and the recipient of AIAA’s Daedalus 88 Scholarship.

Logan Hill, Undergraduate Student, Aerospace Engineering • Class of 2022 • Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
Hill is researching how different process patterns affect the strength and stiffness of aerospace parts that are 3D-printed using fused deposition modeling. His research into which infill patterns create the most strength could help enable 3D printing to be used in more aerospace applications, such as for components in satellites or aircraft structures. Hill also led a team in the 2021 NASA RASC-AL competition to develop a design for a manned mission to the surface of the dwarf planet Ceres.

Oscar Klempay, M.S. Aerospace Engineering • Class of 2021 • Georgia Institute of Technology • B.S. Aerospace Engineering • Class of 2020 • Georgia Institute of Technology
Klempay has leveraged his participation in the U.S. Air Force Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) to give back to his community while working toward his long-term goal of becoming a test pilot. He served as Wing Commander for his Air Force ROTC detachment, where he mentored younger cadets and participated in dozens of service events. After studying Russian abroad in Latvia and Lithuania through an ROTC scholarship, he began volunteering at a local refugee resettlement agency to translate for Eastern European families acclimating to life in the U.S.

Caroline Kren, Graduate Student, Aeronautics and Astronautics • Class of 2022 • Purdue University • B.S. Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering • Class of 2020 • Purdue University
Kren is working to increase diversity in STEM through leadership in several initiatives and organizations at Purdue University. As president and outreach chair of Purdue’s Women in Aerospace organization, Kren increased undergraduate member involvement by 15% and co-founded a student organization to increase women in STEM through cross-departmental collaboration. She served as outreach board assistant for the Society of Women Engineers and ambassador for the Aerospace Graduate Women’s Gathering.

Justin Lidard, Graduate Student, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering • Class of 2022 • Princeton University • B.S. Aerospace Engineering • Class of 2020 • University of Maryland
Through a National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship, Lidard is working to solve problems in flight control. His research is leveraging artificial intelligence to develop a new class of intelligent control algorithms that will allow teams of UAVs to communicate and learn from each other in uncertain flow environments. Lidard has also completed internships at Aurora Flight Sciences and Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory.

Emma Markovich, B.S. Aerospace Engineering • Class of 2021 • University of Colorado-Boulder
As project manager for the Weight Analysis for Surveillance Pods (WASP) Project, Markovich led a team of 10 students to design, manufacture and test a way of upgrading and streamlining the process of determining the weight and center of gravity of underwing aircraft pods. In addition to her technical contributions, she managed the relationship with WASP’s sponsor, Sierra Nevada Corp.

Zachary Marshall, Dual B.S. Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering; Aerospace Financial Analysis • Class of 2021 • Purdue University
Marshall is translating his aerospace research into real-world solutions to improve the delivery of needed community resources. His research into mitigating the frequency and severity of drone separation conflicts is aimed at safely integrating drones into the National Airspace System, which could help enable electrically powered aircraft to deliver medicine, food and cargo. Through his undergraduate coursework, he created a digital tool for nonprofit Meals on Wheels to optimize meal delivery routing and scheduling.

Madeline McQueen, Graduate Student, Aerospace Engineering • Class of 2022 • Ryerson University • BSc Mechanical Engineering • Class of 2020 • University of Windsor
McQueen hopes to become a force for change in making the aviation industry more sustainable. As part of her graduate research at the National Research Council’s Gas Turbine Laboratory in Ottawa, Canada, she is comparing the performance of an on-ground hybrid-electric propulsion system in a serial configuration using different mission profiles and flight conditions. The system could eventually be used to predict the performance and range of battery technologies on future hybrid-electric aircraft.

Shlok Misra, Graduate Student, Data Science and Aeronautics • Class of 2022 • Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University • B.S. Aeronautical Science • Class of 2020 • Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
Misra’s graduate research is aimed at developing visual aids and cockpit technologies for general aviation pilots to prevent unstable approaches. Using flight data from training aircraft at Embry-Riddle, he developed a model to predict unstable approaches and warn pilots to initiate a go-around. The research will benefit Embry-Riddle’s flight-training quality assurance projects and improve safety for the general aviation segment.

Julie Pham, Graduate Student, Aerospace Engineering • Class of 2022 • University of Texas at Austin • B.S.E. Mechanical Engineering • Class of 2020 • Arizona State University
Pham is working to apply digital-twin technology for future aircraft platforms, which can be used to leverage real-time data for more informed predictions about a vehicle’s state. Through her graduate research, she is developing a novel sensing strategy for predictive digital twins for aerospace vehicles. She is working on a NASA University Leadership Initiative project to support development of scientific machine-learning methods to apply this strategy to hypersonic vehicles. Pham also completed three internships at Sandia National Laboratories.

Kriston Ramdass< M.S. Aerospace Engineering Class of 2021 • Pennsylvania State University • B.S. Aerospace Engineering • Class of 2020 • Pennsylvania State University
Pennsylvania State University faculty believe Ramdass’ research will be vital to enabling electric propulsion for small satellites. He is developing a surface-wave plasma thruster as a more efficient and effective method of electric propulsion that is replicable and less expensive. He has interned at SpaceX, Blue Origin, Momentus Space, Boeing and Moog Space and Defense.

Swati Ravi, Undergraduate Student, Physics • Class of 2022 • Columbia University
As project co-lead for the NASA-funded Characterizing Antibiotic Resistance in Microgravity Environments (CARMEn) experiment, Ravi’s research will serve as a foundation for future aerospace biomedical technologies. The experiment is slated to fly on SpaceX 24 to study how the growth and antibiotic resistance of pathogenic microorganisms in space are influenced by interactions with each other and the microgravity environment. Ravi is overseeing a team of 25 students, managing the project’s NASA grant and communicating with NASA and Nanoracks for safety reviews.

Rikhi Roy, Graduate Student, Aerospace Engineering • Class of 2022 • Georgia Institute of Technology • B.S. Aerospace Engineering • Class of 2020 • Georgia Institute of Technology
Roy’s research project aims to expedite time to market for the NASA X-57 experimental aircraft. She is developing a structured framework for compliance testing and regulatory requirement verification prior to certification for novel vehicles. She also has developed algorithms for the FAA to evaluate aircraft braking performance on contaminated runways and to apply aircraft geospatial data to improve arrival profile modeling.

Ryan Strelau, Graduate Student, Aerospace Engineering • Class of 2022 • Purdue University • B.S. Aerospace Engineering • Class of 2020 • Purdue University
Strelau is applying his passion for extending humanity’s reach in space to development of advanced propulsion systems. He is researching laser-based ignition of rocket engines in space environments to develop better industry understanding of complex physics in vacuum conditions. His research has potential applications in both space travel and defense platforms, such as missiles, ramjets and scramjets.

Ryan Udell, B.S. Mechanical Engineering • Class of 2021 • Rice University
Udell established the first student-led project at Rice University to develop and build a cubesat. The OwlSat project aims to track the extreme ultraviolet radiation from the Sun and use machine learning to develop a more accurate low-Earth-orbit orbital model for future satellite companies. The project was selected for the NASA CubeSat Launch Initiative in 2020, and OwlSat is slated to launch in the spring of 2022 on a Firefly Alpha.

Emily Williams, B.S. Aerospace Engineering • Class of 2021 • University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Williams’ research into the science behind hypersonic vehicle reentry led to her becoming the first recipient of the Scott R. White Aerospace Engineering Visionary Scholarship. As an intern at GE Aviation, her work helped to expedite development of GEnx-1B engines, and as an intern at Boeing, she contributed to digital and array electronic product design for the Boeing Satellite Development Center.