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MAE department participates in AIAA symposium

What began in the late 1980s as a small forum for AIAA members working at Holloman Air Force Base's High Speed Test Track to share their ideas and interests has grown into an annual event for an expanded audience and participants.

Khaled Hatamleh, a Ph.D. candidate at New Mexico State University, presented a paper on his dissertation work, Development and Calibration of an Inertial Measurement Unit for UAV Applications, at the Southwest Regional Technology Symposium April 15, 2010, in Las Cruces, N.M. (NMSU photo)

It remains an opportunity for engineers and scientists to talk about what is going on in their fields. The mechanical and aerospace engineering department has become very involved in the event and its presence will continue to increase as the aerospace engineering program grows. Five faculty members and 10 students chaired sessions or presented papers during this year's event.

The Southwest Regional Technology Symposium, as the event is now called, draws approximately 100-150 attendees to the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Museum for a daylong series of presentations enhanced by a guest luncheon speaker, held this year on April 15.

NMSU became engaged as a co-sponsor around the turn of the century as faculty, researchers and graduate students traveled to Alamogordo to share their research efforts. The local chapter of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the Institute of Navigation, and the Boeing Company also provide support for the event. For the past four years, the symposium has been held in Las Cruces at the Farm & Ranch Museum.

Michael Hooser, chief in the Strategic Development Flight division of the High Speed Test Track, has long been active in coordinating the symposium. "We put out a Call for Papers to NMSU, White Sands Missile Range, NASA's Johnson facility and the other New Mexico colleges. Submissions on a wide range of topics are reviewed and panels set up accordingly." In addition to Test Squadron personnel and the MAE department, other Holloman departments, the University of New Mexico, Spaceport America, NMSU's Physical Science Lab, private companies and other national labs offered presentations. Members of the AIAA chapter of Holloman's High Speed Test division provided widely diverse presentations, including UAV aspects, experiment design, vortex generators and one that asked the question, "Where is My Flying Car?"

The Physical Science Laboratory of NMSU contributed eight presentations focused on aerospace topics.

Hooser said, "We are thrilled to have drawn from a wide berth of people at NMSU, and thrilled with the quality of papers submitted. Dr. Tom Burton (MAE department head) has become a valuable assistant in coordinating the event. He also chaired one of the morning sessions. " The Holloman AIAA chapter uses the proceeds from the symposium to offer scholarships to promising local high school students interested in technical fields.

MAE professor Mingjun Wei, whose research field is computational fluid dynamics, chaired one of the sessions while three of his students reported on the group's projects. Responding to the opportunity were Wei's graduate students: Min Xu, Bashar Qawasmeh and Tao Yang. According to Wei, "Their topics included numerical simulation of flapping-wing micro air vehicles, a study of fluid-structure interaction and reduced-order modeling of forced shear flows. The audience showed great interest, especially in the study of flapping flexible wings, which is funded by the Army Research Lab. This is a perfect chance for our students to practice their presentation skills."

Professor Ou Ma focuses on dynamics and robotics and controls; his projects have strong aerospace relation. Members of his research group presenting included Steven Filmore, Qi Lu and Khaled Hatamleh. Qi Lu felt the symposium was a great local conference serving multiple purposes. He said, "Although my topic (Virtually Offloading Body Mass for Rehabilitation: A Simulation Study) is not directly related to aerospace engineering, it was still a wonderful opportunity to share the research with the audience, listen to the opinions and feedback from industry and also practice presentation skills."

Ph.D. candidate Khaleel Khasawneh handled gas dynamics and flows, the research focus for professor and session chair Chunpei Cai. His report described research done under a NASA STTR-Phase I project. As to the symposium, Cai said, "My feeling is it is a good chance for people with jobs and our graduate students to explain what they are doing, and what they have achieved. The topics are quite different, but everybody considered it a serious event and prepared their slides with much care and attention. Almost each presentation got questions."

Doctoral student Kaz Maeda spoke on mechanical properties of shape memory composites, while Master's student Mazhar Islam made a presentation entitled "Numerical Investigations of an Idealized Model of Dynamically Coupled Cylinder-Vortex Interactions."

Jon Davis, who teaches in both the MAE department and Dona Ana Community College, spoke about the aerospace technology program offered at DACC.

Even the department's undergraduate program was represented; Doug Weathers reported on a recently completed project, "The Fachaba Project?Fast, Cheap and Barely Acceptable: Determining a Rocket's Trajectory With Off-The-Shelf Components."

Doug Weathers gave an apt description of the event: "I enjoyed the symposium. It was very informal and comfortable?a good low-stress introduction to giving presentations. There were a wide variety of topics presented. I was able to attend a talk on rotary car engines, and Khaled's presentation in the IMU they [Ou Ma's student researchers] have been building and calibrating.

"I recommend the experience to other students. Especially since the MAE department will sponsor your entry."