A Flight Team Saturday: Grading Landings

by Richard Santi

One of the best parts about being on the Flight Team is our landings practice which takes place every Saturday, starting bright and early in the morning! We start the day by driving in a van out to runway 21R at the Prescott Regional Airport. We have special permission from the airport authority to put tape down on the runway and mark our “box.” This is the area we will be trying to land the aircraft. One line stretches across the runway, which is known as the “zero line,” and is the exact point we are trying to have our wheels touch down on. One hundred feet short of this line marks being out of bounds short, and two hundred feet long of this line marks being out of bounds long.  

An airport employee safely escorts us out on to the runway and we place markers along each of these lines plus smaller markers to help us determine the distance between them.

The competition landings event is pretty straightforward. The pilot flies two laps in the pattern making two landings, trying to get the wheels to touch down as close as possible to the zero line. For every foot that the pilot is off the line, that is one point (points are bad)! It is actually split up in to two different events: Power-On and Power-Off landings. They are very similar with one minor difference. In the Power-On event, the pilot initially pulls power, and cannot add any power, but can keep some power in, gradually decreasing it until landing. In the Power-Off event, the pilot must completely pull all power while abeam the touchdown point and cannot add it back in without getting a penalty.

The “Power Off landings more or less mimic the “Power-Off 180” maneuver practiced by commercial pilots.

In addition to making an accurate landing, there is a very long list of potential penalties a pilot can get in the landing event. Some of these penalties have to do with the energy of the aircraft, some have to do with how the pilot flies the traffic pattern, and some have to do with how the pilot actually touches down on the runway. These penalties make the event incredibly challenging and force the pilot to fly very accurately. 

After marking the lines on the runway, we will next bring out our two Cessna 150s, known as “Eagle 1” and “Eagle 2.” Throughout the day we take turns going into the aircraft and flying our respective slots. When we aren’t flying, we stand beside the runway with clipboards grading our teammates. Usually one person films the landing so we can slow the video down, looking exactly where the wheels touched to get an accurate reading. It is hard to see the exact distance with the naked eye, as in one second the airplane travels about 80 feet.

Most of our grading is looking for penalties and marking them on our grade sheets if we see them.

We of course learn a lot about flying by getting practice ourselves in the airplane. Doing competition landings really helps the pilot to get a heightened sense of how accurate his or her flying is. Being even just a little bit sloppy will result in massive points off of penalties and distance. I have to say, however, that spending much of the day watching other people land and seeing the view of a landing aircraft externally can be really helpful. As a pilot, you do all of your flying with an inside view, seeing references based on how the cockpit glareshield looks compared the horizon and reading your instruments. It’s easy to forget how the aircraft is actually flying. 

Standing out on that field by the runway below a beautiful Arizona sky, watching an airplane make its downwind to base turn, and seeing how the wings gracefully glide through the air has given me different perspective on flying. Every control input the pilot makes will not only pitch the airplane up and down, or roll it left or right, but it will change the energy state of the aircraft in a very significant way. I look forward to every Saturday for this reason, wondering what awesome flying experience I will have. 

Just an Average Day…

by Richard Santi

Hello again! As a Flight Student at Embry-Riddle, I wanted to share with you what my average day looks like. I can honestly say that no two days are the same, and from week to week I am constantly working on a new challenge in flight training or classwork, so it is pretty hard to try and formulate an “average day”. For help, I went back and consulted the calendar on my cell phone where I keep my basic daily schedule. This day is modeled after a random Wednesday this past January.

8:30am-10:00am Flying Eagle Two!

I wake up as I do on most days when I am flying with a bit of extra excitement, though nowadays that happens about five or six days a week. My practice slot for flying Eagle Two starts promptly at 8:30am. As much as I love coffee, it is dehydrating so I will wait for my morning cup until after I’m done flying. I’ll have just water for now. I want to arrive about 20-30 minutes early so that I can look over the weather and see if there is any specific airport notes for the day. Plus I want plenty of time in the aircraft to make sure I can start my preflight aircraft inspection early.

As a member of the Golden Eagles Flight Team, we get a set amount of practice slots flying our specialty Cessna C150s. Part of our competitions are the competitive landings events, where our goal is to land with our wheels touching down as close as possible to the “zero line” (a line of tape on the runway). My personal record is 4 feet off, so I am still looking to my ultimate goal of touching down perfectly on the line. As simple as that sounds, the real trick to the competition is that there is a multitude of different penalties you can get, all related to not flying a perfect pattern. Penalties such as floating, dragging, ballooning, overshooting, undershooting, plus many more, can all be called against a pilot who does not perfectly manage the aircraft’s position and energy. A lot of practice is required to really nail down the technique. As much fun as it is, the practice slot I have this morning will be hard work requiring a lot of focus and attention.

I do my preflight inspection, hop in and start up. I am able to fit in about 12 landings before I have to call for a full stop. Overall, a productive practice slot.

10:00am-11:00am Heading Over to Campus

I finish my slot at about 10 o’clock and head over to campus. I go to Scholar’s Café in the Library to get one of their delicious cappuccinos… finally getting my morning coffee. I know my day will be a busy one, so I head upstairs and sit in one of the big comfy chairs by a window that overlooks campus for the next 30 minutes to relax and enjoy the view of Granite Mountain out the window. I review my Eagle Slot, thinking about what I could do better for next time.

11:00am-2:00pm Class

My first class of the day is AS.408 which is Flight Safety. During the lecture, we review a couple of different topics, but we spend most of the time reviewing a major aviation accident that occurred in the past few decades. We look at the NTSB report, and meticulously dissect what the pilots did that affected the outcome of that accident, either for good or bad. I leave the lecture with a new perspective on airmanship, as well as a lesson that might save my life one day!

I head to my next class which is AS.380, also known as Pilot Career Planning. Given I am a second semester Junior, it is an appropriate time to start thinking about how to plan for my career. Today we talk about proper etiquette and good strategies to have while doing an interview with an airline. Obviously something that will come in handy!

My last class of the day is AS.405, or Aviation Law. My professor is a licensed Aviation Attorney who always has something very interesting to talk about. In today’s class, we play a fun game of Jeopardy! to review for an upcoming test. One of the topics I find most interesting is federal airspace authority, and how different aviation businesses have gone to court when a state government tried to in some way regulate their flight operations, claiming it a violation of the Federal Aviation Act of 1958. I leave class and grab a quick lunch before my next activity!

2:00pm-5:00pm Student Job

I am very lucky to have the opportunity to be a tour guide on campus, working as a Senior Campus Ambassador at our Admissions Office. There are tons of student jobs one can get on campus, from working in one of the academic departments, to one of the business offices, and much more. I have friends who are even dispatchers at the Flight Line! Today I’ll be taking a few families and showing them around our awesome flight department!

5:00pm-7:00pm Homework / Relax

I get off work with a few free hours, so I head on home and grab a snack. Depending on my homework load, I’ll spend the next few hours finishing up some homework assignments and projects, or study for an upcoming exam. However, it has been a long day so I watch a TV show to slow my mind down for a bit first.

7:00pm-8:00pmFlight Team Ground Practice

I had the awesome opportunity to fly Eagle Two this morning, but on the Golden Eagles Flight Team we also compete in ground aviation knowledge, something we are all required to participate in to earn our flying slots. For the next hour, I study some aircraft for our Aircraft Identification event (we also watch a cool airplane video to start each practice). There are roughly 3,000 airplanes in our bank of aircraft we study, so there is a lot of work that goes into keeping them all memorized. There are definitely some interesting facts I’ve learned about certain aircraft that I didn’t know before!

After 8:00pmThe End of the Day

After practice, my roommate Colin (also on the flight team) and I will go home and cook dinner, or we might go out to eat somewhere locally with a couple of friends. After dinner, the rest of the evening’s activities will depend on numerous factors. If I have a busy homework night, that might be what I end up doing, but most of the time I am able to get that done earlier in the day. We’ll usually go over to a friend’s place to hang out and just enjoy the evening. My first class on Thursdays is not until 1:25pm, so normally I might be able to sleep in the next morning. But tomorrow I am going on a training flight with my instructor and we’ll be practicing commercial maneuvers, so I go to bed to make sure I am well rested for the fun day of flying I’ll have tomorrow!

Spread Your Wings at Embry-Riddle

by Richard Santi

Hi Everyone! My name is Richard Santi and I am currently a Senior at Embry-Riddle in Prescott. I am majoring in Aeronautical Science – Fixed Wing, with a minor in Business Administration. On campus, I am a member of our national championship winning Golden Eagles Flight Team, and work as a Senior Campus Ambassador at our Admissions Office (If you come and visit campus, I might be your tour guide)! 

I am incredibly excited to be sharing a bit about my experience at Embry-Riddle with all of you, and will be writing to you regularly, so be sure to check back! I wanted to start off by introducing myself a bit more and sharing with you my journey to Embry-Riddle. I am originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, and grew up in the Chicago area. From a young age, my eyes were always turned skyward, and I could only dream of one day working in the cockpit of an airplane. When I was looking at colleges that had aviation programs, only one stood out to me as the very best. I asked different people who were in the aviation business what school they suggested, and the answer was almost unanimous. “Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.” Without a doubt. 

I have always been a Midwesterner. Most of the landscapes I was used to were farms and skyscrapers. But after all, college is a time for adventure and I was very excited to see a new place for a few years, moving to the beautiful mountains of Arizona. I moved to Prescott in the summer of 2017. I only had about 4 flight hours in my logbook; virtually nothing. No real flight training or formal flight education. Despite this, I flew my very first week here. The first lesson was incredibly simple. How to turn the aircraft left and right using proper rudder coordination. I remember feeling very comfortable, knowing this is what I was meant to do, but I also remember the feeling that I had a long way to go.   

As it turns out, a long way is not so long when you are training at Embry-Riddle. Three more years of flight training and now I am a licensed Commercial Pilot. I have over 270 hours of flight time and have flown in collegiate flying competitions. I have a job offer from a major regional airline and plan on starting flight instructor training soon. I have learned about topics I knew pretty much nothing about before coming to college. Extensive details of aircraft systems, how the stability of the atmosphere affects thunderstorms, the detailed aerodynamics of a tailspin… All topics I had literally zero understanding of prior to coming to Embry-Riddle. All of this was done while simultaneously earning a college degree.

The reason I am mentioning all of this is that I wanted to let you all know that as I post my future blogs, I will be explaining in detail all of my cool experiences at Embry-Riddle, whether it is going through flight training, being on the flight team, or hanging out with friends and enjoying all of the awesome scenery that Prescott has to offer. But really, the main point I would like you to take away from my experience is that whatever you do here, you will learn way more than you thought possible. You will gain way more skills than you thought possible, and you will become someone ready to succeed in whatever field you go into. You will do all of it while having a blast! 

I look forward to sharing more with you!

Aiming for Space with a Fully Reusable Rocket

Hi, I’m Cooper Eastwood, a rising Sophomore Aerospace Engineer focusing in Astronautics. Throughout my first year at Embry-Riddle I was given the opportunity to construct a suborbital launch vehicle alongside Gaurav Nene. My story, as well as many other Embry-Riddle students, begins long before attending college. I have been on the journey to reach space since my early days of high school and my passion has brought me very close to my goal. Through the Undergraduate Research Institute’s backing and Dr. Michael Fabian’s support we are swiftly approaching a final launch date. Our project, the Embry-Riddle Suborbital Reusable Vehicle (ERAU-SRV) is centralized around the ideas of having as little oversight as possible, a small integrated team, and to radically change the way students pursue rocketry research.

Cooper (left) and Gaurav (right) working inside of the AXFAB machine shop.

The purpose of this research is to demonstrate the use of commercial propulsion and flight systems in a fully reusable launch vehicle for reliable low-cost access to space. The rocket, standing at 11ft tall, will be a testament to a cheaper and more frequent launch strategy than comparable commercial and university developed SRVs in its altitude range. Furthermore, the gross lift off weight of the rocket is projected to be only 50 lbs. and will reach apogee at 440,000 ft and reach a maximum velocity of Mach 5, pushing the limits for university level rocketry speed, altitude, and launch rate.

Here we are undertaking a new experience machining the very tip of the rocket out of titanium, the only part to be made of this rare material.

Nearing the end of the first semester the team invested weeks of testing for our onboard recovery and deployment system. This was pursued with the intention of establishing set up and take down procedures as well as a familiarity with the operations. These systems utilize barometric sensors, or atmospheric pressure sensors, to dictate velocity and ultimately deploy a parachute when the acceleration reaches zero. To test these systems in a controlled pressure environment we utilized the state-of-the-art technology in the Aerospace Experimentation and Fabrication Building (AXFAB) and the new Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (STEM) building. After talking with professors and the EagleSat club, we operated the vacuum chambers located in both buildings to simulate high altitude atmospheric conditions. While referencing testing safety standards, we placed the battery and telemetric flight computer into the vacuum chambers and conducted more than thirteen tests over three weeks.

This is the inside of the AXFAB vacuum chamber with the electronics system on an improvised tray. This is where a majority of tests took place, assisted by the sensors inside which gave us pressure readings.

The data we gathered included: voltage outputs of two black powder ignition wires, barometric accuracy, programming and data quirks or anomalies, GPS signal lock strength and tracking, and gyroscopic orientation sensitivity. Both excited and confident with the positive testing results, I compiled our outcomes into an American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) formatted paper which was then published into their most recent journal. After the full paper’s submission, we were accepted to speak at the AIAA Region IV conference at the University of Portland and given thirty-minutes of stage time. We were looking forward to spending two days at this conference in late March and discussing our findings as well as our greater project ideas with our peers. However, this was cancelled due to COVID-19 and will be rescheduled in late 2020.

The purpose of making a procedures checklist is to cut down human error. This is especially useful for the day of launch because of anxiety, or what’s called “go fever”, can lead to detrimental mistakes. Sticking to a script and lots of practice is the best way to mitigate errors. Most corporations have entire teams dedicated to their operations; there they hammer out all the kinks in the road from construction to launch. Launch operations is vital to any rocket’s success, so we have started as early as possible to ensure a smooth launch and to maintain professionalism in the heat of the moment.

Our hands-on work was recognized with a photoshoot for investors. Here we are using a manual machine utilizing the skills learned with our time at AXFAB.

Our design had been completed in October of 2019 and we sent our manufacturing requests to AXFAB. This is where our aluminum components can be machined to AS9100 standards. Starting the beginning the second semester, we dedicated hours a day to work in AXFAB’s machine shop to help speed things along and adjust designs where necessary. Being a two-person team, we both had the knowledge and authority to request parts to be manufactured. Both us and Dr. Fabian believe in a small team approach to this work so we can easily streamline part alterations where necessary, without having to meet up and approve of every detail. With hours a day for a few months being dedicated to machine shop time we found ourselves learning tricks of the machining trade from Jared Vanetta, the machinist, in AXFAB. He has been integral in our manufacturing process as well as a mentor in our designs. The hands-on experience we got were unparalleled in any other classroom study and I found myself sitting in on a ME300 machine shop lab.

After discussions with Dr. Sensmeier and Dr. Fabian we incorporated our URI project into an official class: AE 399, a 3-credit course. It gives us an opportunity to finish the project on campus over summer while earning credit that counts toward our degrees. This was a great moment for us as our extracurricular time and effort spent was recognized by our professors and department.

The hands-on approach by professors certainly accelerated this project’s success. I find myself getting more interested in engineering every day and I hope to pursue this as a lifelong career. A note to incoming students; if you have a great idea and a goal, you can really go far with the College of Engineering’s dedication to their students and with the backing of URI.

A Flight Lead Student Advisor’s View From Above

by Martin Kurkchubasche

Me with my best friend Daniel’s 1975 Cessna 172M after flying IFR with him on a rainy day in San Jose, CA. He’s now a CFI at Purdue. Photo taken by my childhood friend turned professional photographer Meredith Williams!

Hi there! I’m Martin Kurkchubasche, a Senior studying Aeronautical Science with a minor in Aviation Business Administration. I’m from San Jose, California and I came to Embry-Riddle Prescott having already earned my Private Pilot Certificate with just about 100 hours of experience. This put me on track to graduate a semester early, December 2020 instead of May 2021. Throughout my time here, I have earned my Instrument rating and finished my Commercial Single-Engine training in our Cessna 172 fleet and am now in the process of earning my Commercial Multi-Engine training in our Diamond DA 42 fleet.

I am also a FAA-certified Advanced Instrument Ground Instructor and work as a Peer Counselor where I tutor students, endorse written exams, and for the past year I have taught labs for the College of Aviation. During the school year, there’s a very high chance you’ll find me in the Hazy Library until closing working with students. During admissions events such as Preview Day and Orientation, you’ll probably see me rocking out with our two awesome College of Aviation advisors Merrie and Stacey. I help create schedules for all you students and I make sure you end up with my favorite professors! For those of you reading this, we’re currently dealing with COVID-19. So, for any of my students reading this, I’m very proud of the work you all have completed as well as your adaptability and ability to deal with anything the world throws at us!

My involvement with our Flight Department and Flight Line is extensive. As the Lead Student Advisor for the Flight Department, I work one-on-one with management and help take suggestions students have and implement them at the Flight Department. As a student myself, I was always uncomfortable talking to my higher ups, which is why our department chair refers to me as his “feet on the ground”. I make sure students have someone they can comfortably talk to and share experiences, good or bad. I am incredibly lucky to be able to work with and call everyone in management a friend. If you’ve been at any of the admissions events, there’s a very high chance you’ve met and talked with me during the Flight Breakout Sessions. I have a great team of flight students that help me out and sit on the Flight Line Student Advisory Board and help plan student-led workshops on tough topics, and plan special events like socials and barbecues. I’m always looking for volunteers to be on the Advisory Board so swing by my office at the Flight Department and say hi!

Photos from when I was observing a demo-flight when Cirrus was demonstrating the ability of their SR-20 aircraft as a possible trainer for ERAU.
A name tag for every position I work.

You’ll also find me working behind the desk as a Flight Dispatcher and occasionally on a shuttle-run as a Shuttle Driver. I also sit on our No-Show Review Board where I take part in the determination if we should excuse a no-show or reduce costs of unexcused no-shows. The Flight Department always jokes about getting me a name tag reading, “Ask me, I probably know” because of the variety of qualifications I hold. I work on special projects, most recently having participated in helping choose the new fleet for ERAU, migrating our Dispatch team from a paper schedule to fully online, redesigned the entire shuttle route to make it easier for our students to make it from class to our Flight Line, and am currently taking part in helping select the new software to replace our Dispatch / Scheduling / Academic Tracking software.

I am on my third summer working for our Summer Programs Department, second summer working as a Housing Supervisor. I visit our office frequently because, quite frankly, I love the people I work with. I worked as a Teacher’s Aide throughout high school teaching 4th through 8th graders photography, so getting to teach high schoolers about aviation is probably one of the most fun things I’ve gotten to do. Also, shout out to Wendy, Shelby, Tori, Seyi, Logan, and Hayden over in the office! Hopefully I’ll see you all soon for the summer kick-off! I’m looking forward to my final year working with Summer Programs!

The 2019 team from our Summer Programs Department.

In my free time, I fly, believe it or not. I have over 300 hours of experience in a wide variety of aircraft. I earned my High-Performance and Complex Aircraft endorsements flying the most unique plane in the Prescott fleet, our 1980 Cessna 182-RG, affectionately known as Riddle 82. Sometimes I even fly two different types of planes in one day. One of the most memorable experiences was flying Riddle 82 in the morning with one of our Training Managers and going straight into Riddle 94, one of our Diamonds, with our Chief Pilot. If you ever see me in person, please ask me about it! There’s more that happened that’s just too much for a blog!

Team 3 Training Manager Dave Warnke and I taking off in Riddle 82 in 25-knot winds at Prescott, taken by Instructor Cameron Rojas through binoculars.

I’ve flown almost every Cessna 172 model from 1970 onward. I’ve done cross country flights to Vegas, up and down the California coast, and all throughout Arizona. Through my time as a Peer Counselor and my flight experience, I’d like to believe I’ve become an expert with the Cessna 172, but there’s always more to learn and experience. As students we never stop learning about the planes we fly.

My roommate took this photo of me relaxing on a bench at Arizona Snowbowl Ski Resort after a long day on the slopes.

When I’m not in the air, I try to stay active and take advantage of the weather we have. In Prescott, we’re about 20 degrees cooler than Phoenix on any given day, which means I can be outside year-round and not hiding from the heat. When the weather is good, I can be on our tennis courts hitting with my friends or relaxing poolside watching planes fly over. Sometimes I’ll make the dive down to Phoenix and hang out at the air-conditioned malls in Scottsdale. When it’s winter and we have snow, find me on the slopes in Flagstaff with my buddies.

As if I weren’t busy enough, I also run a research program with the Undergraduate Research Institute. This involves me running a brand-new virtual reality lab which is located at our Flight Department’s Simulation Center. The project was started by one of my professors, Professor Michelle P. Hight. I’ve been working with her from the beginning of the project and have become the resident student expert on flight simulation under VR. I have two awesome research assistants who I couldn’t work without. They happened to be two of my friends, Jake and Daniel. Jake and I were almost-neighbors freshman year, he lived one suite away from me in the Mingus Mountain Complex and I happened to be friends with his suite-mates, so I was always invading their dorms. Daniel is a sophomore who I met through my work as the Student advisor to the Flight Department and we immediately clicked. Our goal is to reduce the cost of flight training and hopefully play a part in reducing the global pilot shortage. I’ve presented at the Industry Advisory Board in front of many major companies. It’s only been our first semester working, and we didn’t get to do very much due to the on-going pandemic, but we’ve adapted and changed everything we’re doing. Right now, we’re designing an experimental course that will hopefully be offered by the College of Aviation in the fall! So, for all you incoming students, keep an eye out for the course offering and I might get to be your teacher!

My two research assistants Jake (left) and Daniel (right) testing out our VR equipment before the students get working on their virtual private pilot course.
Me presenting about my research at the Industry Advisory Board taken by CoA Advisor Merrie Heath.

CSI Students Attend the RSA Conference

by Kevin Hood

My name is Kevin Hood and I am a Sophomore studying Cyber Intelligence and Security. During my time at Embry-Riddle, I have been managing the Cyber Lab, leading Cyber Defense Club, and working with the college to grow the degree program. Recently, Mohammed Dalloul and I organized a trip to bring a group of students to San Francisco. During the last week of February, the Women in Cybersecurity Club and the Cyber Defense Club visited San Francisco to tour Silicon Valley companies and attend the RSA Conference. The goal for the trip was to help the students practice networking, expose them to opportunities, and make Embry-Riddle well-known in the cybersecurity industry.

This year, club members attended and toured Google’s Headquarters, The Intel Museum, and the Plug and Play Tech Center. This allowed students to experience the Bay Area commodities and cybersecurity companies that exist. Google offers a unique work environment that ensures their employees live in a healthy work-life balance. Our students were surprised how Google provides free gourmet meals, freedom to pursue creative ideas, and collaborate with the best minds in the industry. The GooglePlex has 3D printing labs, employee gardens, and gyms available for employees to use during the workday. Google offers student internships in cybersecurity, and we talked to them about participating in our career fair that we offer for students in both the Fall and Spring semesters.

The second place we visited was the Intel campus in Silicon Valley. Kevin Dorland, a senior in the Cyber Intelligence and Security program, gave other students a tour of the Intel Museum. Kevin’s expertise and previous knowledge on Intel’s products was an inspiration for our students and taught them about the history of computers, old storage devices, Intel StrataFlash memory, microcontrollers, and the manufacturing behind Intel chipsets.

Kevin Dorland at the Intel Museum

Silicon Valley is best known for the technology startups in the industry, and the College of Security and Intelligence Dean, Dr. Jon Haass, got us connected with the Plug and Play Tech Center. Plug and Play is an innovation platform that helps startup companies connect with the world’s largest tech giants. These connections help the startups gain support and investments to grow their products. Plug and Play partners with universities across the United States to support student startup ideas for startups when they graduate college.

During our tour of the facility, we learned about the process for how collaboration between the fortune 500 companies and startups can lead to the best innovation. Startups can present their ideas to company representatives and gain feedback on their ideas, which can lead to investments and company partnerships.

The next two days of the trip were spent attending the RSA Conference. The RSA Conference is the largest cybersecurity conference in the world, where students attend keynotes, networked with over 500 companies, and attend the RSAC College Day Sponsor Panel. During this event, we networked with the cybersecurity leaders from NBCUniversal, Walmart, Lockheed Martin, RSA, Intuit, Dell Technologies, and Microsoft about cybersecurity initiatives and ideas from students.

On Thursday afternoon, we met with Mike Gordon, Vice President & Chief Information Security Officer for Lockheed Martin to discuss how we could collaborate for more student projects and opportunities. Mike is an Embry-Riddle Alumni who provided support for ERAU’s 2019 CyberAero Competition. Lockheed Martin has set up special programs for our students including the Lockheed Martin Cybersecurity White Paper Competition where students wrote papers addressing multiple topics in cybersecurity to win prizes. Additionally, we met one of our recent Embry-Riddle graduates, Andrew Recker, who is working as a Cybersecurity Engineer at Lockheed Martin and was one of the founders of the Cyber Defense Club. Our goal is to continue to strengthen the relations with Lockheed Martin Cybersecurity organization for future opportunities, specialized internship programs, and project support.

Embry-Riddle students with Mike Gordon, Vice President and CISO of Lockheed Martin (ERAU Class of 2000), and Andrew Recker, a Cybersecurity Engineer at Lockheed Martin (ERAU Class of 2019).

Embry-Riddle’s Women in Cybersecurity Club (WiCys) attended the conference to gain connections and industry support across Cybersecurity domains. Currently, the ERAU WiCyS Club is the only WiCyS Club in Arizona, and they want to help other Universities start their own chapters. The club members networked with NBCUniversal to discuss how they can gain more support for projects and student opportunities. Additionally, they spoke with John Scimone, Senior Vice President & Chief Security Officer at Dell Security & Resiliency, regarding this topic because he is an Ambassador for the Executive Women’s Forum on Information Security, Risk Management & Privacy.

Student Representatives from Embry-Riddle’s Women in Cybersecurity Club with Andrea Abell, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Security Officer of NBCUniversal, and NBCUniversal Recruiters.

Students from both the WiCyS club and Cyber Defense Club attended the expo floor and industry talks on quantum cryptography, machine learning, anti-fraud, product security, and advanced threats facing the industry. The exposure for these students inspires them, as they can see first-hand the innovation and product ideas that these companies provide to the cybersecurity industry. These students discussed initiating startups, capstone ideas with representatives at the car hacking sandbox, and research projects that they could present in partnership with the sandbox partners at the following year at the conference.

The opportunity to tour Silicon Valley and attend the RSA Conference was invaluable to us. During the conference, Mohammed and I spent most of our time collaborating with the members of the Chief Information Security Officer Panel and companies on the expo floor. Gaining insight into the industry and learning how academia can collaborate with the companies was very inspiring. Also, Mohammed and I are very proud of the students for leaving a lasting impression of the university at the expo floor, getting recruited for international job opportunities, and learning how to solve the cybersecurity threats facing the world. Overall, the trip was life changing for all of us and a huge thank you to the College of Security and Intelligence, Student Government Association, Undergraduate Research Institute, Campus Facilities, Women in Cybersecurity, Dean Rhondie, and Leah Richwine for making the trip possible.

Senior Detail Spacecraft Design Collaboration with NASA

By Ian Gregory Bigger (Team Lead) and Steven D. Carreon (Asst. Team Lead)

During the prior semester, Fall 2019, our team, Zero-G, was generously invited by Dr. Phillip Anz-Meador of NASA’s Orbital Debris Program Office at Houston Johnson Space Center to conduct hyper-velocity impact tests for Project ORION (Orbital RemediatION) at the Experimental Impact Laboratory. The testing allowed us to gain experience with several different orbital debris shields commonly used on the ISS as well as experimental shields. This data would be used to determine which shield type would be most appropriate for a sweeper debris satellite intended to clean debris fields in low earth orbit that pose as a threat to current functional satellites. Testing was supervised by lab director Dr. Mark Cintala, and test engineers Frank Cardenas and Roland Montes. Our trip to Houston was accompanied by our highly esteemed capstone professor, Dr. Daniel White, and lasted through November 7th to the 9th

Concept art of finalized design of an ORION spacecraft based on most effective shield.

The change in design of ORION from an active satellite capable of rendezvous with large piece of orbital debris to a passive satellite intended to pass and clean small debris in high debris orbits originated from Ian Bigger’s Summer 2019 internship at the Orbital Debris Program Office at Johnson Space Center. As a team, we decided implement multi-layered micrometeoroid orbital debris shields, the current method that most large spacecraft implement for defense against orbital debris.

Entering the Fall 2019 semester came with a complete revamp of our capstone project’s preliminary design along with many difficulties. Through multiple iterations of our team’s design, we were able to create a project that became feasible and fulfilled our project requirements. In doing this, we attracted the attention of the Hypervelocity Impact Test Lab, allowing us to test an experimental orbital debris shield composed of two panels of steel mesh.

Light Gas Gun inside the Experimental Impact Laboratory at NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX.
A look inside the Light Gas Gun impact chamber in Houston, TX.

Our team decided to test five shield variants that could one day be re-purposed for intentionally impacting Low Earth Orbiting debris. This method of passive orbital debris remediation had never been tested up to the point of our detail spacecraft design commencement. One of the shield variants chosen (aluminum foam) was outside of our team’s budget. After notifying Dr. Philip Anz-Meador of our team’s financial limitations, he amazingly and surprisingly offered to find and donate an aluminum foam block (6” x 6”) to us, courteous of NASA. The block had an approximate value of $800.

Section cut of the aluminum foam block donated by NASA, after a 6.063 km/s impact.

We had a smooth flight to Houston and arrived the night of November 7th. After situating in our own respective hotel rooms arranged by ERAU, we went out for double cheeseburgers with avocado at Texas’ own Whataburger, and they were delicious. We needed all the body and mind fuel we could gather for what would become a full 8-hour day of testing at Houston Johnson Space Center the following day.

Upon arriving at Johnson Space center, we were greeted and verified for entrance by very polite, armed security guards at the South Gate, and directed to the front office to obtain our guest passes. After obtaining our guest passes, we immediately made our way to Dr. Phillip Anz-Meador’s office in the building adjacent to the Experimental Impact Laboratory. Dr. Phillip Anz-Meador was excited and cordially greeted us, and then introduced us to the building staff that would be supervising our hyper-velocity impact testing.

There was a total of six test fires conducted in the two days of testing. Four tests in the first day, and two on the second day. Preparation for each shot took approximately 1.5 hours. Between each preparatory period, we took advantage of the time by enquiring on the vast amount of test equipment and procedures within the laboratory, history of the staff with NASA, and pleasant conversations about our future plans as professional engineers.

Just before a firing was about to start, the 1 mm stainless steel sphere projectile was loaded in a collapsible sabot lubricated with a graphite pencil. The loaded sabot was then loaded into the launch tube just aft of the metal diaphragm.

Light Gas Gun compression chamber that contains the energy to deliver the projectile down the barrel to the impact chamber.

The compression chamber was then filled with nitrogen gas just under the point of diaphragm rupture. Once the final checks were made the entire laboratory was evacuated outside into the hallway where the key-activated firing control panel was located. The compression chamber was topped off with more nitrogen gas, then test engineer Roland Montes would flip the release switch to trigger the gun powder portion of the Light Gas Gun that would rupture the diaphragm and delivery the projectile down the chamber. A successful shot was indicated by a rapid gas hiss and audible pop over a couple milliseconds.

Diagram of the impact process for shields with a standoff distance between panels (NASA, 2018).

The velocity of each projectile was measured using a series of three laser sensors located in the launch tube about 30 inches apart from one another. Each velocity was translated using a combination of time and distance recorded by three oscilloscopes and timing devices.

The results turned out amazing and above all of our expectations for an undergraduate capstone project. We took a tremendous amount of care in manufacturing and assembling the five shield variants. No penetration occurred in any of the designs. Some of the shields did experience bulging on the rear panel, but still no spalling and no penetration.

All five post-impact shield variants after being shipped back to ERAU.

After a successful round of tests on the second day, we were all cleared to get lunch and tour the facility. We said our farewells and went out to get more burgers at a local favorite of NASA employees, including the astronauts in training. Dr. Phillip Anz-Meador accompanied us, and on the car ride over he asked us what our plans were for the future. We received congratulations and even future job opportunities with NASA and their contractors. We even expressed our interest in top secret jobs related to orbital debris and were told to contact him in the future when we were ready for the commitment.

A look inside the Space Center Houston tour in Houston, TX.

After a fantastic meal, we returned to Johnson Space Center to do a brief tour. With our guest passes we decided to take the Space Center Houston tour backwards to avoid the flood of tourists because we could. Dr. White and the two of us had an amazing and eye-opening experience at Johnson Space Center. As a group we learned how a professional laboratory operates, the deadlines associated, and the level of professionalism mixed with quirkiness that is required at facilities like NASA’s Johnson Space Center. We were reassured by lab engineer Frank Cardenas that in order to work with NASA, the employees all have a profound interest in their work and have fun. So much interest and fun that the clock and time seem to disappear. We learned this behavior firsthand in our time working on this capstone project, and finally realized that we were not alone in our fascination of remediating space debris during our time at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

Undergraduate Research in Aviation Business Administration

Presenting my project during the 2019 ERAU Open House

My name is Kelvin Maurice Russell and I am a Senior majoring in Aviation Business Administration with an Area of Concentration in Airport Management. I recently completed my economics research paper titled How Does Federal Funding For U.S. Airports Affect Airport Growth? I was fortunate enough to have this paper funded by Embry-Riddle’s (ERAU) Undergraduate Research Institute and the School of Business. Dr. Jules Yimga, my economics professor and faculty mentor, provided me great guidance and support while researching and writing this paper. It is my hope that this research will be published in a transport journal which may influence policy makers and airport professionals on the importance funding means for airport growth.

I was a student in Dr. Yimga’s EC 315 – Managerial Economics course in the Spring 2019 semester when I begin discussing with him my desire to make a difference in the aviation industry by conducting a research project. I knew that he was well versed in the topic since he recently has 11 published paper in transport journals. Also, as a student I knew how important it was to have conducted research during my undergraduate degree and I wanted to have something to show for it on my resume. Beginning in the fall 2019 semester and I took EC 330 – Air Transport Economics with Dr. Yimga and this class required a final research paper. This experience was a great opportunity for me to delve into the literature on this topic and research extensively.  Taking time to analyze the information was hard but exciting and I learned so much.

It was initially a challenging time finding a distinct and specific topic in the broad field of aviation. In the beginning, however, I set clear intentions for what I wanted my paper to produce:

  • Make an impact to the overall U.S. transportation industry
  • Focus on either U.S. airlines or airports
  • Allow my paper to be a reference to policy makers within the aviation sector

Through the help of Dr. Yimga, we eventually came up with the topic of airports in the United States and how federal funding affects airport growth. I was instantly excited because the topic was not only specific enough for the course requirements, it was a topic that did not have much analysis in terms of how funding affects airport growth, and it was a topic I knew could make a difference considering funding being a key discussion driver among many industries.

My URI Open House Poster

The result of my paper consists of multiple regression analysis performed on the amount of funding the top 30 U.S. airports received and how it affected overall airport growth in terms of passenger traffic, runway work, departing flights, and more. As a curious individual I learned a great deal about Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grants, which is the main source of federal funding for U.S. airports. As a student I was able to enhance my Excel skills through performing regressions and interpreting their meanings. This of course was not without the help of my great faculty mentor, Dr. Yimga.

I would like to thank all those who assisted me in my research and analysis during this project. This includes the Undergraduate Research Institute Committee and the School of Business. Again, special thanks to my economics professor and mentor, Dr. Yimga. Through his guidance and support in this and other projects I have learned and grown a great deal.  

My Summer Internship with The Boeing Company

by Dai Ibrahim

This summer I had the opportunity to work at The Boeing Company in Seattle, Washington. As an Embry-Riddle Software Engineering Student, I was a part of the cyber security product development team. I quickly found out that ERAU students’ reputation precedes us. When I told my co-workers that I attend ERAU, they all praised the university and the students. My team especially loved ERAU because of our manager, Sheila B. Reilley. I had the pleasure to work with Sheila before she retired after 30+ years at Boeing. I will forever be grateful to Sheila for giving me the opportunity to work with her team this summer.

The Boeing sign at the 40-88 building in Everett, WA.

I worked with two different groups within the team over the 12 weeks I was there. At first, I worked for autonomous systems. Within autonomous systems, I worked with my team lead, ERAU Alum Alan Tomaszycki, and the College of Security and Intelligence on developing a multi-discipline capstone project. I was also able to contribute to a patent that is in the process of getting approved.

The space needle park in Seattle, WA.

After that project was complete, I went on to work with the rest of the team in Seattle where I worked on front-end development which is what I am really interested in. I was put on a team developing a front-end for airplane log data that was in JSON format. I was assigned to work with one other intern on the front end while two interns worked on the back end of parsing the logs. My partner and I started by getting requirements from the members of the team that were going to be the primary users. After gathering the requirements, we started by experimenting with the designs and making wireframes and screen-flows that imitated what we wanted the displays to look like and satisfied the requirements.  When the basic design process was done, we started working on use case scenarios. We came up with six different scenarios for how the displays could be used. We then revisited our designs, and we altered them so they would better reflect the scenarios. The software engineering courses that I took over the past three years have prepared me for the real-world applications of the engineering process.

Cold War’s B-47 Stratojet in the Museum of Flight in Seattle, WA.

We had weekly meetings with the team and the project leader to go over our designs to ensure that they aligned with the needs of the team. After we got the okay on our designs, the next step which I was in charge of was implementation. I got the data that the back-end team produced, and I used python and TKinter to make the front-end piece. Programming the display was the easiest and most enjoyable part for me. I requested a code review with some of my coworker to get feedback on my program, and I got lots of comments praising my code. My coworkers pointed out that they can tell that I am a software engineering major and not CS like most of the interns because of how maintainable and well written my code was, and how well I documented it. During this whole process, I discovered that the ERAU software engineering classes have equipped me with all the skills and the knowledge that I need in the field and the ability to adapt to new challenges. I was more knowledgeable about the software engineering process that most interns, and I owe it to the SE professors who prepared me to make it all possible.

SR-71 Blackbird in the Museum of Flight in Seattle, WA.

I learned so much from my team over the 12 weeks. Most importantly, I learned about the software engineering process for front-end development. I am now certain that I want to pursue front-end development as a full-time career. I was given a return offer to Boeing for an internship next summer with the same team on my last day. I had a blast working with my team this summer, and I can’t wait to see what I will be working on next summer.

The annual Embry-Riddle/Boeing partnership summit at the Boeing Flight Test & Delivery Center in Seattle, WA.

Research Opportunity for Undergraduates in Autonomous Vehicles

by Andrea Gray

This past summer I was privileged to work as an undergraduate on a National Science Foundation funded research project at Wright State University. This research program was focused on autonomous vehicles and split up the 11 participants into 4 separate teams working on specific research and development projects under the general topic of autonomous vehicles.

I was on a team with another undergraduate student studying Electrical Engineering working on developing a forward collision detection and avoidance system in autonomous ground vehicles using LiDAR and IBM’s 90nm CMOS technology. As a Software Engineering student, the focus of circuit creation and design was not something I was familiar with, but luckily, I had a wonderful teammate and supervisor, along with the experiences I have had at Embry-Riddle, I was able to learn and be successful in my work.

LiDAR is growing in popularity with autonomous ground vehicles due to their ability to function in adverse weather conditions (comparative to a camera) and their recent decrease in cost. The 90nm CMOS, Complimentary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor, is being used along with the LiDAR because it is a low-power and low-space solution that can also produce the necessary performance needed to make rapid decisions for the system. This LiDAR system, being low-energy and high-performance, is a development that is highly valued in the autonomous ground vehicle field. While there are many teams performing research and development for systems such as this one, there is no system that has been adopted by commercial or professional companies as there is still a lot to be perfected in the systems and costs can still be too high. This is where our research shows its value, since LiDAR is rapidly dropping in price and our system is based on dependability, our final design and report should be very useful for others in the field after presented at a technical conference at the end of this year.

For the development of this system, we first designed the basic circuitry logic in MATLAB. This process was where I was able to take the lead from my previous MATLAB and Simulink experience and develop a basic functional forward collision detection and prevention system. From there, we exported the circuit into a software platform called Cadence. Cadence allows for circuit development that meets the specific specifications and functionalities of particular technologies per their manufacturer’s specifications. My teammate, being familiar with Cadence, took over the circuitry design while I did more research on issues that would need to be mitigated with LiDAR systems such as the detection of the return LiDAR pulse off of obstacles with poor reflectivity rates (i.e. matte black bar bumpers). My teammate navigated the complex Cadence design process, with my research inputs, and we were able to successfully create our final circuitry system for a forward collision detection and prevention system for an autonomous ground vehicle.

By the end of the 3 months, I had gained a large understanding of autonomous ground vehicles, their history, and their future. I produced a background report, multiple progress reports on the technology we designed with their setbacks and future plans, and I am currently working on the final report of the project, along with my teammate, which is planned to be published into a conference by the end of the year. Along with knowledge gained on the topic, I learned an immense amount about perfecting my time management skills, my teamwork abilities, and, a vital skill for engineers, the ability to create a professional technical report that is well-organized and well-written all while being completed under a strict time constraint. I am very grateful for not only this experience, but also for the knowledge gained during it and the knowledge I was able to utilize from my academic career at Embry-Riddle.