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Dr. Ahmed Abdelaal.
Guided by Dr. Ahmed Abdelaal, Texas A&M engineering students pave the way to clean aviation energy as NASA competition finalists. | Image: Texas A&M Engineering
A team of freshman engineering students at Texas A&M University has been selected as one of eight finalists for NASA's Gateways to Blue Skies: Clean Aviation Energy Competition. The competition challenges university students to propose a clean aviation energy source to be used in the 2050s.
Mentored by Dr. Ahmed Abdelaal of the Department of Engineering Technology and Industrial Distribution, the team — consisting of five undergraduate students, Madeline Tesch, Claire Lewis, Brennan Pratt, Kai Joy and Arnav Pradhan — was evaluated based on feasibility, viability and environmental impact. As finalists, they received a $6,000 stipend to fund their full participation in the competition.

"They want us to explore anything that isn't being used or highly researched right now, including sustainable aviation fuel, green fuel and hydrogen fuel. Essentially, they're asking us to develop a proposal for what we think clean energy should be in 2050," said Tesch, the team project leader.
The Blue Skies Forum, which will take place on June 1-2, 2023, at NASA's Glenn Research Center, will provide an opportunity for the team to interact with NASA and industry experts and showcase their innovative ideas. Winning team members will also have the chance to intern at one of the four NASA Aeronautics Centers nationwide.
The Gateways to Blue Skies competition team is part of Aggies Create, a student organization founded by two engineering technology and industrial distribution students. Vansh Amin, the current president of Aggies Create, explained that the organization's vision is to provide students with hands-on experience and involvement in industry projects and competitions.
Students stand in front of a building with pillars at Texas A&M University.
The team will apply in-school knowledge to develop an innovative proprosal for using sustainable fuel in the 2050s. From left: Kai Joy, Brennan Pratt, Claire Lewis, and Madeline Tesch. | Image: Courtesy of Dr. Ahmed Abdelaal.
"We want Aggies to apply their in-school learning to activities where they will gain experience in the real world," said Amin. Aggies Create takes many forms, including product design projects where students can redesign everyday items such as bicycles or backpacks. The organization also consults with startups and companies, taking on projects, establishing deadlines and deliverables, and working with the companies over a few semesters.
Amin and his team are focused on expanding the organization beyond its initial focus, getting students together based on similar skillsets, finding projects and organizing the whole effort to help them succeed.
Texas A&M's participation in the Gateways to Blue Skies competition highlights the university's commitment to innovation and sustainability. The team's design concept will be evaluated by industry experts at the Blue Skies Forum, providing valuable experience in the aviation industry and furthering the university's research efforts in sustainable aviation energy.
"We had no idea we could do this, but we did anyway," Tesch said. "And people need to see that even if you are a freshman, even if you have general engineering tacked on your name at the end of the resume right now, you can go for that internship, you can get into that competition or you can do that thing that you've been wanting to do. Don't be scared if 'you aren't experienced enough.' You just need to work hard and jump in the deep end."

Aggies interested in learning more about Aggies Create are encouraged to contact Abdelaal for further information.