Aerospace engineering faculty, students help organize and run aerospace STEM event in North Texas

Scittech STEM 1Dr. Darren Hartl, assistant professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at Texas A&M University, and his student research team from his Multifunctional Materials and Aerospace Structures Optimization (M2AESTRO) Lab, helped organize and run the AIAA Foundation’s Generation STEM event in Grapevine, Texas.

The event was held in conjunction with the 2017 AIAA SciTech Conference and Exposition.

Generation STEM was designed to engage and stimulate middle school students by offering interactive activities such as participation in mini design competitions and challenges, engaging demonstrations from various aerospace companies and opportunities to discover aerospace findings that are impacting everyday life.

Scittech STEM 2Planning for the event, which included nearly 250 middle school students, was first initiated in April 2016 when the potential for providing grade school students in north Texas the experience of a major international engineering conference became evident.

“I believed that if this most important aerospace conference was going to be hosted in our state, we had best do everything we could to share it with some of our future engineers and scientists,” Hartl said.

Working with the AIAA Foundation, Hartl identified Granbury Middle School as a strategic partner in making this event happen because of the strong technology curriculum of Granbury ISD.

“This was an amazing opportunity for our students,” said Ryan Ellis, a Granbury teacher and 2003 Texas A&M graduate. “It is one thing to discuss engineering concepts with them, but to see how people are currently putting those concepts into practice is priceless for our students. Our students saw and experienced things that gave them a better understanding of what engineering is, and we cannot thank Texas A&M and Dr. Hartl enough for helping make this a reality.”

On the day of the event, 10 hands-on science experiments were prepared by AIAA Foundation employees, while an additional four to five demonstration tables were configured by such participants as Lockheed-Martin, The University of Texas-Arlington, and the Department of Aerospace Engineering at Texas A&M.

Students of the M2AESTRO Lab, assisted by aerospace students Francis Phillips and Maziar Izadi, demonstrated aerospace engineering research topics such as shape memory alloys and tensegrity structures to the students. They also staffed the science experiments and provided the majority of the volunteer support for the overall program.

“The students passion for learning reminded us why we first aspired to this career,” said Ryan Patterson, a graduate student in the M2AESTRO Lab.

Pictured top right: Granbury Middle School teacher Ryan Ellis '03 explains to his students the importance of research in engineering.

Pictured bottom left: The AIAA Generation STEM event hosted nearly 250 students and included hands-on science experiments in addition to a number of sponsored technology demonstrations, including a table from the Department of Aerospace Engineering at Texas A&M University.