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.

Luke Baird’s REU at Wichita State University

This past summer, I attended an REU at Wichita State University in Kansas. I originally heard about the Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program in an email from Dr. Ed Post, advertising the REU in Cyber-physical systems, along with several other REUs. REUs are summer research internship programs at different universities throughout the country funded by the National Science Foundation in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics. With the support of several professors in the Electrical Engineering department at Embry-Riddle, I was readily accepted into the program.

A view of the dorm Shocker Hall at WSU.

Before, I had zero experience whatsoever with research, however, the program provided a smooth introduction to it. My work schedule was super laid-back. Once a week, I would meet with the program coordinator for different workshops discussing topics such as how to apply to graduate school, what is expected in research, and how to present research findings effectively. Also, I met weekly with my faculty mentor regarding the specific research in which I was involved. As a result, I needed to employ a lot of self-discipline. Thankfully, I formed good study habits at Embry-Riddle that I applied at the REU.

When I was in high school, I had a job with a marketing company developing mobile apps. Based on this work experience, the program coordinator paired me with a project in the field of Android cybersecurity. It was my task to research and develop a set of tools to determine if a given app on the Android platform is hiding in different lists on a device.

At a poster session featuring my work with Android.

One of my favorite things about Kansas is that the people there are remarkably hospitable. Within days, I had the opportunity to make friends both with other REU interns and with several local residents through a college group and a local church. This was a huge blessing as I did not have a car in Kansas.

Towards the end of the REU, I had the opportunity to visit Hutchinson, KS where NASA’s Cosmosphere is located. Their lobby is built around a SR-71 Blackbird banked 30 degrees for its turn to final.

Beside an SR-71 Blackbird at the Cosmosphere in Hutchinson, KS

One of the coolest things that I got to see there was the original Apollo 13 space capsule, reassembled after different parts toured the world for many years. It was particularly interesting to see the history of rockets from World War II through the space race. As an American, I was quite unfamiliar with the German and Russian history which was covered extensively and honestly in the museum.

Currently, I am finishing up the paper that was mostly completed during the REU. It is wonderful to be able to show a completed paper at the end of a program, especially as an undergraduate. I went from not knowing a thing about research to having a finished paper. My mentor and I are submitting the paper to a conference which I will hear from by the end of the month.

To any students who are interested in research—I would highly recommend an REU, especially for Sophomores as REUs accept Sophomores far more readily than industry internships do. There was even an intern who had only completed his freshmen year who was accepted! I am thankful for Embry-Riddle making this wonderful opportunity possible for me this summer!

The Missouri River in Kansas City, MO

Internship at Lemuel Martinez’s 13th Judicial District Attorney’s Office

by Dante Gurule, Forensic Biology

In the summer of May 2019 I interned at the Lemuel Martinez’s 13th Judicial District Attorney’s Office in Albuquerque, New Mexico. There is a DA office in each of the three counties including Sandoval, Cibola and Valencia. I worked for Sandoval County as it was the closest to my house. At the DA office there are many attorneys that work under Lemuel Martinez. These attorneys represent the State in criminal cases for all cases whether it be a felony or misdemeanor offense. During this internship I got to assist these attorneys with building case files, as well as observe them in both the District court, for felony offenses, and Magistrate court, for misdemeanor and below offenses. In preparing cases I would work with the different legal assistants and take on my own cases as I would prepare them for a variety of attorneys. Most cases I prepared were domestic violence cases including battery, deprivation of property, violation of restraining orders, etc.

The Sandoval District Attorney’s Office

The majority of my classes for my forensic biology degree did not provide much knowledge for this internship as my degree has a heavier emphasis on the sciences. However, the mock trials done in both my Instrument Analysis and Trace Evidence class as well as my Investigative Methods and Forensics Science class allowed me to understand the procedures and components of a trial. My Intro to US Legal System and US history classes gave me a good foundational understanding of our laws and constitution. I think it’s important to note I am yet to take the procedural law class for my degree which would have been very useful. I think my class work did show me the importance of forensics in law and how they coincide.

This internship was important for both my career and educational plans. After I graduate I plan to go to law school and this internship at the DA office not only introduced me to what Attorneys do but also allowed me to put my foot in the door to intern again with them while in Law School so I could get more hands on work with the Attorneys. This internship was overall a great experience and I am glad I got to work there.

The Magistrate Courthouse
Sandoval County District Court

International Internship with Vive Peru

The forensic biology program has so many possible career options, which may cause some difficulty in finding an internship if a career path is uncertain. Thankfully I have always known I wanted to work in the medical field so this was the perfect internship for me. My internship with Vive Peru combined my love of travel with my desire to learn more about the medical field. With this program, I was able to shadow doctors from several different specialties in multiple hospitals and clinics in Trujillo, Peru, assist with large medical campaigns, and volunteer in a small community adjacent to Trujillo.

Embry-Riddle Forensic Biology student travels to Peru to assist in vaccinations

Due to the nature of the program, shadowing doctors in hospitals in a foreign country, it was very structured and the only decisions I could make was which doctor I wanted to shadow that day. However, creativity could be used for the volunteer efforts. I could do all of the decision making for what activities we were going to do with the children we worked with, with only one constraint: the activity had to be related to public health. Due to the structure of the program, the learning objectives were set out for each of the hospitals we visited based on what the previous volunteers experienced in the past.

My microbiology course at ERAU was beyond helpful when working in the lab and explaining what was going on to my interpreter who did not understand any medical or biological sciences. I was able to point out differences between the way the labs run in Peru versus what we were taught in class. Many of the differences throughout the hospitals and clinics, not just in the labs, were due to lack of funding and supplies. It was definitely a culture shock to see the lack of sanitation and sterilization, but that only happened because they did not have enough supplies to use a new set of gloves or dental tools or even agar plates for each patient.

I am so grateful for this internship and opportunity. Peru was a beautiful place with beautiful people. The program does an amazing job of connecting volunteers with the community and making a real difference in the community. Many of the patients at the free medical campaigns said the only go see the doctors when these medical campaigns were held as they could not afford to see a doctor otherwise. The children in the community where I volunteered are so grateful for us and were so sad to see us leave. Learning about medicine and watching doctors work was amazing but seeing the change that my contribution made to the community was much more fulfilling.

My Internship at the BioMechanics Physical Therapy Clinic

At the Physical Therapy Clinic

At the Physical Therapy Clinic

My internship at The BioMechanics Physical Therapy clinic was filled with learning opportunities and I was able to expand my experience in many different tasks. Through this opportunity I began to develop my skills in patient treatment, bedside manner, and the fundamentals of physical therapy, as a whole.

My official title was a technician for the physical therapists and my job consisted of checking on patients, moving patients from one exercise to the next, teaching how certain equipment and exercises should be used or performed, and setting them up for modalities and/or heat or ice at the end of their session. As a tech, I was always on the floor making sure everything was running smoothly between the patients, as well as double checking that the therapists were not getting backed up with patients or extra work that the technicians could have been working on.

My studies and previous classes within my program for a Forensic Biology degree, prepared me for this internship by providing me with the correct information in regards to general biology and anatomy and physiology, so that I had knowledge of different muscle groups and their mechanics, as well as allowing me to utilize the business demeanor and professional manner that was implemented within several classes. Overall, I am very grateful for my position at The BioMechanics clinic and I have gained valuable experience, skills and knowledge, especially involving patient treatment in physical therapy that I will be able to use regardless of what my future entails.

Alternative Spring Break- Mexico Addition

Spring breaks in college have a stigma that they involve partying and going crazy, but let me tell you, there are alternatives. This past spring break I had the opportunity to travel to Mexico and volunteer my time. I went with Chi Alpha, which is one of the clubs on campus that I am involved in, and it was amazing!

Meixo Girls

We left on Friday after classes finished and drove down to San Luis Mexico, which is right under Yuma. It was a five-hour drive filled with ice cream, singing, and friends. When we crossed the border, the first thing we did was meet up with the group at the best taco stand. Then we continued on to the boy’s home where we would be staying.

Meixo Tacos

The next morning we had breakfast then split our group (we had around 30 people), some went to build roofs on people’s homes, and others went to host a carnival at a soup kitchen. I went and helped host the carnival. We got to sing with the kids, put on a skit, and have games for them to play! After that, we went back for lunch. After lunch had a water fight with the boys at the orphanage and then went to go give beans to people whom could not leave there homes. During that after noon, I saw extreme poverty and some people who were struggling with hard things but they had a hopeful outlook and joy about life. And it has a way of reconsidering your situation.

Mexico ChurchMexico Dump

On Sunday, I got up early to watch the sunrise then I was off to Church. This year I had the opportunity to share a little bit of my testimony at Church, which was an amazing experience, and something I will never forget. After church we went back, some went to finish roofs, and others handed out the rest of the beans at the poorest part of town. In the evening, we had a fiesta with the boys at the home and served them ice cream. After that, our team went out for those amazing tacos again.

Mexico Sunrise

Monday we packed up and headed home. Before crossing the border my car stopped and got some fresh tortillas and juice boxes to help the borderline go faster. We even ended up pushing the car in the line to save gas and help it not overheat. By 5 pm I was back in my hall on campus which the rest of spring break in front of me.

Mexico Reagan

Even though I did not have a tradition spring break or the opportunity to go home I had the opportunity to give myself and my heart away which means more to me than I can explain with words. So just know, spring break does not have to be a constant party it can be many other things too. Spring break is for you, so don’t get trapped in the mindset that other people try to portray it to be.

Havasupai- A Pinterest Dream

So I don’t know if any of you love Pinterest, but I sure do. And in the past year Havasupai and the beautiful waterfalls there keep popping up. Well over spring break I had to the opportunity to fulfill all my Pinterest dreams and see them! Now they are just as beautiful as you think but there is one part of seeing them that nobody seems to talk about, the 12-mile hike in. There are other ways to get down to see them such as mule and helicopter but that is going to add quite a bit of money to your trips.


12 miles in and 12 miles out with all the clothing, food, and sleeping gear you will need can seem a little daunting and it is, but it is worth it. Seeing the beautiful scenery and having very little people around helps create a breath taking view. Now this hike is not for new hikers and people who are not prepared, but it is one worth training for. And there are some of the beautiful reasons why.

Supai village

  • You get to sleep on the edge of a waterfall and next to a river!

Supai campSupai Girls

  • The pictures are pretty crazy

Supai mooney and girls

  • You will hike more than 30 miles in 3 days and that’s really cool

Supai sign

  • The water is beyond amazing

Supai Jumping

  • You can join the few people who have conquered Havasupai Supai MooneySupai Water

A Letter From Your RA

Dear Residents/Soon-to-be-Residents.

Hi! I am that seemingly scary older student that said “Hello” to you on move in day, I am the person who can get you into trouble for being too loud, but I am also one of the best resources at your disposal while you live on campus. I have been trained in how to get someone to fix your toilet, get your cloths out of a broken washer, and who to point you to when you need help with class. Nevertheless, I am also here to be a listening ear, help you feel safe on the floor, and solve most all problems you have, whether they are emotional, with your roommate, or family. I know it might seem scary when you see me walking up the stairs or in the dining hall but I am not your enemy. Sure, there will be times that you fail your health and safety inspections (HSI) or are written up for being loud during twenty-four hour quite hours, and yes those times are awkward. But they are to help you grow. Failing your HSI is no fun and I do come back, but it is better to learn that the pink stuff at the bottom of your shower is not left over shampoo and your toilet is not supposed to look like that. And being written up is frustrating I admit it, but learning to be studious and respect the needs of the others around you is a lesson that you will never forget.

Speaking of things you will never forget RA programs, no, they are not mandatory, but yes, they are highly recommended. Programs hosted by RAs are not always informational, and most of the time you get free food. Your RA loves it when you come to their programs and it’s even better when you bring friends to share in the fun with. The point of programs are residents. Food for the residents, games for the residents, all in hopes to build a community where people know their neighbors and floor mates. I get it they can be awkward but try them you might be pleasantly surprised with the outcome.

I am a big supporter in getting to know your RA, even if that means just saying “Hi” on your way to class, but it is really up to you. You can talk to your RA or not. You can go to class or not. You get to decided what your year looks like, take every advantage to make it great, because college is short and your time living on campus and with that community is even shorter.

Best Wishes,

Your RA