Logo: University of Southern California

A Viterbi Sweep at the Regional Aerospace Sciences Student Conference

USC undergrads take individual and team prizes in San Diego, will move on to nationals

April 19, 2011 —

USC Viterbi students turned in a strong performance at the recent American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Region VI Student Conference in San Diego University, winning the top honors in the undergraduate category and team category, and securing an honorable mention in the graduate category.

Eric Teegarden (senior in aerospace engineering) and Ryan Jansen (a senior in a joint BS-MS in astronautical engineering) won the first place in the undergraduate category, which carries a $500 prize and a spot at the AIAA Aerospace Sciences meeting next January in Nashville, where they will compete against undergraduate winners of the other 6 AIAA regions.

Eric Teegarden: Nashville bound
Teegarden and Jansen’s project involved the design and testing of a hybrid rocket thruster designed as a booster engine for nanosatellites such as cubesats. They were able to use an oxidizer injection method that has only been attempted once before on a larger scale.  Their project was the first to miniaturize it to the extent that they did. Their research grew out of a suggestion by Jansen’s research advisor, astronautics research associate professor Sergey Gimelshein, to look for areas of small scale chemical rocket propulsion as a possible area for their senior design project.

USC Viterbi students also placed first in the team category. Alec Winetrobe (B.S. aerospace engineering), Michael Jacobs (B.S. mechanical engineering) and Matthew Dung (B.S. mechanical engineering) placed first with their project "Analysis and Design of a Sphere-Mounted Robot for Integration into Human Environments." Winetrobe said, “We wanted to make a robot that intuitively stabilized from outside stimuli, like a Segway, but had an even smaller footprint and thus was more versatile in human environments.”

The team developed a prototype of a robot that balanced and drove a base sphere, and used this prototype to test the limiting factors in their design to try and create the most cost-effective robot possible. They succeeded in determining many of these limitations and plan on reproducing a more robust scale model of the Sphere-Mounted Robot in the future.

In the graduate category, Pedro Llanos, a Ph.D. candidate in the Astronautical Engineering Department, won an honorable mention. His paper was on

Pedro Llanos
"Morphology and Dynamics of Galaxies" about a way to improve our perception of how galaxies are intrinsically structured. His paper was not directly being related to his Ph.D. research,but  he credits his mentors and faculty advisors in the Astronautical Engineering Department, including Mike Gruntman and Dan Erwin, for their support. The honorable mention included a cash scholarship.

The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) sponsors this annual conference as a means of encouraging students in aerospace and related fields to discuss research, exchange knowledge, and generate interest in the field of aerospace engineering. For more information, see the conference website at https://region6.aiaastudentconference.org/.