How does the support of our donors have a direct impact on our students’ educational experience? We asked some of our students this very question. Read more about how gifts from our alumni and friends like you have made a difference to our students. To learn more about these student projects and/or to support our student teams, visit our student projects page.

Aadil Pappa, Senior

Safety Officer, Longhorn Rocketry Association (LRA)

Aadil Pappa

I first heard about LRA at orientation before the start of my freshman year. As Sarah, the undergraduate advisor, listed out the different extracurricular clubs available to aerospace engineering students, I instantly decided that I would check out LRA first because I always wanted to learn more about rockets. I went on to build two amateur rockets from scratch for my level one and level two certifications, became inventory treasurer in junior year and became safety officer this year.

LRA is one of the best engineering clubs to join to gain hands-on skills and apply classroom knowledge to the design, fabrication and launch of mechanical systems – in this case rockets. Through LRA’s certification group, I learned to use machine shop, wood shop, and advanced manufacturing equipment to turn a computer design into a physical rocket. I also applied my aerodynamics, structural mechanics and rigid body dynamics course knowledge to both design and operational settings, allowing me to bridge the gap between theoretical concepts and real-world application.

Throughout my time with LRA, I’ve come to appreciate how valuable those hands-on skills are to aerospace companies. Many of the best internships available in the industry are with companies that demand that their interns have experience designing and building something from scratch according to engineering principles. To meet this demand, our organization has a heavy focus on lowerclassmen involvement throughout the design, build and launch process.

In recent years, our donors and the department have helped us increase our member base while simultaneously assuming a more research and development focus. This semester, out of our 30 certification group members – a 500% membership increase over the previous year—, 24 of them are freshmen. They will individually design, build and launch their own high powered rockets for their level one and level two certifications. Parallel to those efforts, our engine development team is designing a custom liquid rocket engine and building a rocket engine test stand at Pickle Research Center, while our Multi-Staged team is designing and building highly optimized two-stage rockets to break the club’s altitude record. None of these projects would be possible without the support of our incredible donors. So on behalf of LRA, I would like to thank you for making these projects possible!

Amy Ekiriwang, Senior

President, Design/Build/Fly (DBF)

Amy Akiriwang

I joined DBF as a freshman, uncertain about whether or not aerospace engineering was the major I should be in. I came in with zero knowledge about composites, machine shop tools, or propulsion systems, and close to zero knowledge about how airplanes actually worked.

While I took my first-year level calculus, chemistry, and programming classes, through DBF I also got to learn about all the different components of an airplane and the basic aerodynamic concepts of how they worked together to make the whole thing fly. I learned about the processes involved in designing and fabricating all the components, and I had a lot of fun doing tons of hands-on work together with the new friends I met through the organization. The basic classes I was taking didn’t do much to reassure me that I had chosen the right major, but my experience through DBF reaffirmed that I wanted to study aerospace engineering.

After a semester and a half of hard work, it all came to fruition when we went to Tucson, Arizona to attend the international competition, where we placed 5th out of more than 60 entries. Getting to see the plane we designed and built from scratch fly and compete against other teams from all around the world was such an amazing feeling. My sophomore year, I was the chief engineer for DBF, and we got to go to Wichita, Kansas, which was just as fun and memorable as the competition freshman year. It was also my experience from DBF that landed me a great internship the summer after my sophomore year.

I’m now a junior, and this year I am the president/team lead of DBF. We will be going back to Tucson this year, and hope to continue placing well. From all my involvement in DBF, I’ve gained valuable knowledge and skills, as well as some of my closest friends. Joining DBF positively impacted my overall college experience more than anything else I’ve been involved in, and we have the department and donors to thank for making these experiences possible.

There’s no way we would be able to come up with the resources to buy materials, test designs, and travel to competitions without the generosity of our donors. Thank you so much for all that you’ve done to help provide undergraduates with a valuable educational experience!

Blake Younger, Senior

President, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle

Blake Younger

I learned about the amazing things the UAV team does with autonomous drone technology in Aug. 2015. With Amazon building drone delivery prototypes and Silicon Valley startups exploring agricultural, security and other drone applications, I knew that the drone industry promised to be an interesting and quickly growing field. I began my time with UAV in the conceptual operations subteam, which controls the plane using autopilot software. In Jan. 2016, I became the president. We placed 15th out of 43 teams at the 2016 Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International Student Unmanned Aerial Systems Competition (AUVSI SUAS).

When my team members or I are interviewing for jobs, involvement in the UAV team is always a selling point. Not much can beat hands-on experience on an autonomously flying plane with video surveillance, image recognition, payload delivery and obstacle avoidance capabilities. All of the knowledge acquired in UAV is directly applicable to the emerging drone industry, and many of our previous members have benefited from their experience.

We need a variety of materials to enable us to improve and test our plane and to compete at the international competition. I am confident that if we achieve our fundraising goal, we can earn a top 10 position at the competition in 2017. We rely significantly on donors to meet our ambitions. Thank you in advance for your generosity!