Student Teams Provide Unique Opportunities for Learning and Networking

September 8, 2020

From their first day of class, our undergraduate students have the opportunity to participate in a wide variety of extracurricular programs and projects. Options include project-based learning teams, leadership and networking organizations and undergraduate research labs. Participating in these teams and programs teach our students valuable technical, leadership and research skills while preparing them to become next generation of engineering leaders. And though many projects have been put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our students are finding ways to adapt them in innovate ways. Learn more about their plans for the 2020-21 academic year.

Association of Computational Engineers (ACE)

photo of ace student group presentingThe Association of Computational Engineers (ACE) is an organization for students interested in computational engineering and sciences to come together and participate in social events, professional development, networking and community service. Plans for this academic year are to continue to host guest speakers through virtual meetings at first and host socials, meetings and service events once in-person activities resume. ACE participated in Girl Day 2020 and will hopefully do so in the future as well. Members also hope to work more with the ASE/EM Department to establish a more solid foundation and better promote this relatively new organization to the student body.

Design/Build/Fly (DBF)

photo of dbf students working on airplaneThe Design/Build/Fly team at UT Austin develops remote-controlled aircrafts to enter into the annual AIAA Design/Build/Fly competition, an international contest between 90+ teams. Each year, aircraft submissions complete flight and ground missions unique to the theme of the competition. The 2020 mission was to build a plane capable of deploying a 50-inch banner mid-flight as well as being able to carry a small cargo payload. Each year, the UT team begins from scratch and designs, constructs, tests, and flies its aircraft based on the new year’s mission. This allows students to participate in every step of the design process. 

"Coming to UT I knew I wanted to get involved in an org that gave me exposure to my major and hands on experience as well as allowing me to meet new people. DBF was that for me. It taught me valuable hands on experience and gave me such amazing friends within my major. Not to mention, it was such a fun time! whether we were working on a project for hours or just going out to eat after, DBF made me feel at home in UT Aerospace." – Audrey Smith, DBF member

Longhorn Rocketry Association (LRA)

group photo of the lraLRA is a student-run organization that designs, builds and flies high power rockets, with the mission to provide a professional, academic and social support system for its members. A long-term goal is to launch a student designed and built rocket to 100,000 ft. and for 2020-21, launch a rocket to 30,000 ft. at Spaceport America Cup, and to build and verify a hybrid engine.

"LRA has taught me accountability; when you do work for a class and you make a mistake, you might lose a couple points. When you’re working on a rocket that’s going to be launched, it makes you realize the value of your work and makes you work with a lot more purpose." – Axel, LRA member

UAV Austin

group photo of uav austin members with airplaneUAV Austin is a student-led technical organization that specializes in fixed-wing unmanned aerial systems. The organization focuses on building semi-autonomous aircraft every year to compete in the Student Unmanned Aerial Systems (SUAS) Competition hosted by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) in Maryland. For the 2020-21 season, members will build an entirely new UAV system from scratch. UAV Austin is involved in both hardware and software aspects required for Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS). The involvement ranges from computer-aided design (CAD) modeling and structural analytical studies to image recognition with machine learning and obstacle avoidance. 

Women in Aerospace for Leadership Development (WIALD)

wiald group photoWIALD aims to facilitate the development of leadership skills for women in all undergraduate engineering majors. Members strive to attract and retain more women in engineering by making group activities fun, exciting and ultimately valuable in achieving long-term career goals. In 2020-21, WIALD will put more emphasis on social and professional development. As a result, members will engage in smaller technical events, such as hackathons and workshops. Another goal is to connect with more corporate representatives for more professional development/networking opportunities.

"WIALD absolutely means so much to me. Not only is it an organization for leadership and development but I feel as if I have truly found a home. I have enjoyed learning technical skills while working on our hands-on projects and CAD workshops and made great memories from our NASA trip. WIALD definitely has a special place in my heart." – Alyssa Garza, WIALD member

Texas Rocket Engineering Lab (TREL)

photo of students working on TREL ignitor test standTexas Rocket Engineering Lab promotes interdisciplinary collaboration and works to complete long-term, tangible projects while “demystifying” the intricacies of applied rocket science in order to better serve its peers and successors. Over the next academic year, TREL will be building up momentum to launch Halcyon in May 2021 at Spaceport America, the most advanced collegiate rocket ever built. During the summer we worked with Firefly Aerospace to finish key test infrastructure to fire our 3D printed Havoc engine. The only way TREL has been able to build such an advanced liquid bipropellant, actively stabilized, structurally advanced rocket is through our 160 team members. By creating a diverse and inclusive environment that fosters learning even through failure, TREL will not only continue to push the boundaries of rocketry but will also produce highly-trained rocketeers. 

"TREL has given me exposure to high-level engineering practices and concepts that I wouldn't have learned until taking junior/senior level classes or entering the aerospace industry. I've had the freedom to design and manage tests with others and see my work come to fruition. Most importantly, managing and working with a large-scale team of classmates has greatly improved my interpersonal skills. My favorite TREL memory was the the black powder test that I participated in during fall 2019. I was able to help design, build and operate a test to verify some parachute parameters, plus seeing a black powder ignition up close was really awesome." – Michael Evangelista, TREL Recovery Principal Engineer

Texas Spacecraft Lab (TSL)

The Texas Spacecraft Lab is a student-driven design laboratory directed by assistant professor Brandon Jones. This year TSL will progress on three missions. SERPENT features one CubeSat that estimates the relative pose of a deployable mechanism using stereo cameras and a neural network operating on a Graphics Processing Unit. Critical Design Review will be completed this year. In 2019 the Seeker mission (NASA-JSC) sought to demonstrate the viability of on-orbit inspection with a CubeSat. A second iteration of Seeker will develop improved models to fly on the new mission, with plans to also publish a paper. As part of a larger NASA-funded project, TSL is developing the Lunar Crater-Based Navigation and Timing (CNT) CubeSat mission to demonstrate the use of visual navigation and timing algorithms for small-satellites in lunar orbit.

"TSL has allowed me to piece together information learned across years of classes and use it on projects that align directly with the satellite work I aspire to be a part of post-graduation. I owe so many incredible experiences to TSL and I genuinely don’t know where I’d be without this organization!" – Jennifer Byrd, TSL member

Thank You

Thank you to all who have supported our students and department programs. They would not be possible without external support from our alumni and friends. If you would like to support our students and department programs, visit our student programs page.