Engineers inspire students during Engineers Week

Dr. Rostislav Spektor speaks to engineers at the Engineers Banquet, Feb. 22 at the University of Tennessee Space Institute Dining Hall, The View, during National Engineers Week. Spektor is a manager for Electric Propulsion for Space Exploration at the Aerospace Corporation and an AIAA Distinguished Lecturer. He spoke about the history and future of electric propulsion for space applications. (Courtesy photo by John McInturff)

Dr. Rostislav Spektor speaks to engineers at the Engineers Banquet, Feb. 22 at the University of Tennessee Space Institute Dining Hall, The View, during National Engineers Week. Spektor is a manager for Electric Propulsion for Space Exploration at the Aerospace Corporation and an AIAA Distinguished Lecturer. He spoke about the history and future of electric propulsion for space applications. (Courtesy photo by John McInturff)

Dr. Rostislav Spektor speaks to engineers at the Engineers Banquet, Feb. 22 at the University of Tennessee Space Institute Dining Hall, The View, during National Engineers Week. Spektor is a manager for Electric Propulsion for Space Exploration at the Aerospace Corporation and an AIAA Distinguished Lecturer. He spoke about the history and future of electric propulsion for space applications. (Courtesy photo by John McInturff)

Dr. Rostislav Spektor speaks to engineers at the Engineers Banquet, Feb. 22 at the University of Tennessee Space Institute Dining Hall, The View, during National Engineers Week. Spektor is a manager for Electric Propulsion for Space Exploration at the Aerospace Corporation and an AIAA Distinguished Lecturer. He spoke about the history and future of electric propulsion for space applications. (Courtesy photo by John McInturff)

ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, TENN. -- The theme for this year’s Engineers Week was Inspiring Wonder. Many high school and middle school students took part in local events designed to help inspire their wondering minds.

Volunteers from the Tullahoma chapter of the Tennessee Society of Professional Engineers (TSPE) and the Tennessee section of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) together with volunteers from the U.S. Air Force, National Aerospace Solutions, LLC, QuantiTech, University of Tennessee Space Institute and the Hands-On Science Center helped to plan and host activities.

The first event, MathCounts® competition Feb. 3, was on the University of Tennessee Space Institute campus. Middle school students from Highland Rim Elementary School, Lincoln County; the Webb School, Bedford County; East and West Middle Schools from Tullahoma; and St. Andrews-Sewanee, Franklin County, participated in the event which consisted of three rounds – a sprint round, a target round and a team round. In the sprint round, the contestants had to answer 30 problems in 40 minutes on an individual basis with no calculators. For the target round there were eight problems given in sets of two with six minutes to complete each set. They could use calculators in the target round. The team round had 10 problems, and collaboration of the four-member team was allowed.

Second place went to the Webb School, and the first place team was from East Middle School. This competition was sponsored by the Tullahoma chapter of the TSPE as a local competition. The AEDC STEM office also sponsored the event. The winning team and four high-scoring individuals competed as the Tullahoma team at the state competition March 17 at the Tennessee Engineering Center, Nashville. The Tullahoma team included the East Middle School team of Jake Bennett, D.J. Dillehay, Cannon Emory and Franklin Zhang; Kyler Cantrell from St. Andrews-Sewanee; Jackson Banks and Garnet Cuello from East Middle School; and Alexander Camron from West Middle School.

Forty-two students from eight local high schools – Cascade High School, Coffee County Central High School, Community High School, Franklin County High School, Huntland High School, Lincoln County High School, Shelbyville Central High School and the Webb School – competed in the 23rd Tullahoma Area Student Design Competition at the HOSC, Tullahoma, Feb. 20.

The project was to design, build, market and compete an airship to transport a payload of packing peanuts through an obstacle course. The students were evil interns helping Dr. Doofenshmirtz hatch his evil plans. The obstacle course included a hula hoop, a slalom course, a spin, roll, and flip, a long distance flight, an open frame cube and an overhead light fixture. The students had two hours to design and build their device from a kit of supplies ranging from paper clips to manila folders. Each team was given five helium-filled balloons. Once the device was built, they were encouraged to test it before the competition. The students had a blast, and each team came up with a unique solution. A scoring equation which accounted for payload, obstacles completed and presentation was used to determine the winners.

Third place went to Kendall Purdom and Timothy Barlow of the Community School, Bedford County, and they each received a $50 Amazon gift card. The second place team was Jack Beachboard and Chloe Spry of Coffee County Central High School, and they received $75 Amazon gift cards. First place went to Alina Parks and Leanne Turpin from Franklin County High School. They received $100 Amazon gift cards, a first-place trophy, and will have their names engraved on the Spirit of St. Louis model that is on display at the HOSC.

During the Engineer for a Day event on Feb. 21 at Arnold Air Force Base, 33 students from 12 high schools – Cascade High School, Community High School, Coffee County Central High School, Fayetteville High School, Franklin County High School, Huntland High School, Lincoln County High School, Moore County High School, Riverdale High School, St. Andrews-Sewanee School, Tullahoma High School and Warren County High School – were in attendance. The students were welcomed by AEDC Commander Col. Scott Cain and they saw a video about AEDC. There was a question and answer period during which they could ask questions about engineering college curriculum and engineering as a career. They also took a tour of AEDC facilities including an engine test cell and a space environmental chamber.

After lunch, they paired up with engineering mentors and learned about the work the engineers do on a daily basis. The students were matched up with engineers in their field of interest for college studies. Many of the students have already been accepted at colleges for the fall semester, and spending time with the engineer mentors may help them decide on areas of study. Feedback from the students was very positive.

Engineers Week was capped off by the Engineers Banquet Feb. 22 at the UTSI Dining Hall, The View, which is situated on the shore of Woods Reservoir. The guest speaker for the banquet was Dr. Rostislav Spektor, manager for Electric Propulsion for Space Exploration at the Aerospace Corporation. Spektor is also an AIAA Distinguished Lecturer, and the Tennessee Section of AIAA sponsored his appearance as the banquet speaker.

He gave a short history of electric propulsion for space applications, and he also told some of the history of rocket propulsion including China’s use of rockets in 1232 A.D. and Polish drawings for a staged rocket in 1650 A.D. The first person to propose electric propulsion for rockets was a Russian, Tsiolkovsky, in 1903.

Spektor described some current and future missions for electric propulsion in space vehicles such as a gravity mapping mission in low earth orbit and a mission in which the spacecraft will capture an asteroid using a thruster.

He concluded his presentation with the following thoughts.

“Electric propulsion was invented before the birth of the space age, electric propulsion has been in use for decades as a station-keeping propulsion system, increase in available on-board power is allowing EP to replace chemical rockets as primary propulsion systems, and new and exciting missions are now possible because of EP.”

Spektor’s talk was lively, interesting and exciting. Some high school students in the audience may have been inspired to become future electric propulsion scientists and engineers.

Editorial Note: Paul Kelly served as the 2018 Engineers Week Planning Coordinator.