Opportunities with Honors

I’m Alexis Hepburn from Lake Stevens, Washington. For the past three years at Embry-Riddle, I have devoted myself to engagement with my campus community through mentorship, leadership, and research. As an Honors Program student on the research track, I have been able to cultivate my newly formed skills as a future Aerospace Engineer. The Embry-Riddle staff and faculty foster an environment of academic rigor, engaging hands-on experiences, and the potential to grow personally and professionally. The Embry-Riddle family continually rises to the challenge of providing the optimal undergraduate career.

In the late spring of 2018, I contacted Dr. Daniel White in order to pursue a potential mentor relationship. His experience in electric propulsion both in industry and an academic setting supported and aligned with my longtime interests. Upon our first interaction, he encouraged me to visit his office so we could begin a research project of our own. I was amazed at his openness and enthusiasm to teach me the things that I’d been missing, having previously been solely dependent on scholarly literature. With his assistance, we began working on a single-stage bismuth fed stationary plasma thruster.

A stationary plasma thruster is a form of electric propulsion used most often on satellites for long duration missions. The fuel source is usually an inert gas which is heated to the point of becoming a plasma. The engine operates via energizing and ejecting the plasma with help from the Hall Effect, which describes the relationship between an electric and a magnetic field. 

Work station

After a few short weeks of preliminary work sessions filled with whiteboard ‘chicken scratch’, spreadsheet configurations, and computer-generated models, we were ready to submit our proposal to the Undergraduate Research Institute (URI). URI is an unparalleled resource for students because it allows them to pursue their research interests in a supportive and resource-laden environment.

3D Model of the assembled engine

The Embry-Riddle professors are confident in their students and therefore, Dr. White encouraged me to submit our preliminary design to the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) national Energy and Propulsion Forum in August. Upon acceptance to this conference, I will now have the opportunity to present and publish my research among some of the industry’s leaders. I will have the context to grow my network, represent my university, and display my work among future colleagues.

One of the benefits to Honors Program students is that we are invited to apply for awards, fellowships, and scholarships through the National Collegiate Honors Council. This year, I was thankful to have been accepted as a 2019 Portz Interdisciplinary Fellowship recipient, where I will seek to address the potential improvements for miniaturized Hall thrusters for long duration satellite missions.

I owe much of my success and appreciation to my mentor, Dr. White, who has continuously gone above and beyond during the planning and development of this research. I would also like to thank the Honors Program Director, Dr. Boettcher for her continued interest in my success which was often delivered in well-timed encouragement and constructive critiques. Finally, this would not have been possible without the patience and diligence of the machinists, rapid prototyping lab technicians, research librarians, and the College of Engineering administrators.

Find me on LinkedIn at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alexis-hepburn

Chloeleen’s Internship at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

The sign right at the entrance to JPL.

During the summer of 2018, I had the privilege to work as an intern at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). It has been a lifelong dream of mine to work at JPL and I got to live it as a part of the Integration and Test team on the Mars Helicopter Project (which will be headed to space on the Mars 2020 mission).

This is a model of the helicopter that was brought out for a presentation at JPL about the project.

You may think “Wow, she must have done a lot to get an internship at JPL!”. However, my resume was as built as any inexperienced college student. One thing to keep in mind is don’t dismiss activities or projects done in high school; an engineering project I did in high school is what caught my JPL mentors’ attention when they decided to contact me for a phone interview.

One my first day, I was extremely overwhelmed because the project was well underway, and I needed to catch up. My mentors were very understanding and welcomed any questions I had throughout my internship. I was tasked with assisting with testing as well as writing procedures for future tests.

Outside the lab where they did the shock testing that I participated in.

Aside from work, JPL held several activities for interns the entire summer, like speaker events, short movie series, and facility tours. My most exciting experiences as an intern were: (1) participating in the NASA Summer Intern Challenge, (2) being interviewed for an article highlighting some projects at JPL, (3) participating and watching any Mars Helicopter test activities.

This picture was taken early on in my internship. This was my original carpool group.

One thing I learned from my experiences at Embry-Riddle is to be patient because hard work and a little luck will pay off. I’ve had some hard semesters where I thought I wouldn’t make it through a class, but I studied hard and got the grade I needed on the finals. The curriculum that was most helpful to me during my internship at JPL was Technical Report Writing. While different JPL projects have their own formatting requirements, I used what I learned to section the procedures I was writing, make sure that the steps were detailed, and ensured that there was enough information for each step with images, callouts, and tables.

This picture is the mission control for space flight operations. It is where NASA’s Deep Space Network is operated. It was named after the former director of JPL, Charles Elachi. The room
right next to this one is the room that JPL broadcasts from for mission landings, like the
Insight Landing that happened in November.

Software Engineering Internship with BendixKing

This past summer I had an internship with BendixKing. To Embry-Riddle students, the name might sound familiar as our King building is named after King Engineering which merged with Bendix a while back. Fun fact: they actually have a picture of the King building hanging up in their lobby.

King Engineering, Prescott Campus

King Engineering, Prescott Campus

At the internship the environment was friendly and within my first week I felt like I had been there forever. My boss told me multiple times ‘we will treat you like a real engineer only we pay you less and you might need help sometimes’.

Now at first this sounds scary and leading up to the internship I was worried that I would not do well; although after that first week I was not worried to fail. Everyone was willing to help me or point me in the direction of someone who could.

Honeywell is BendixKing’s overarching parent company and they are the ones that hosted the interns; which means there were a lot of activities and lessons that they put on for us. One that especially helped me was these online seminars where they talked about all aspects of aviation. We were able tour the Honeywell facilities and get a background into what all they do. Honeywell likes to keep their interns as long as they do well over the summer.

On my last day before I left my internship I was offered a position to return to BendixKing. I will be returning to Albuquerque NM to work for BendixKing as a software engineer. The lessons and methods that I have been taught at Embry-Riddle helped me; the ‘learning how to learn’. I was only able to accomplish this because of what I have learned at Embry-Riddle and through the great connections that they have.