Contact: Linda Weiss

AERO Undergrad Coordinator

Aerospace Engineering

Michigan Engineering

(734) 764-3310

1216B FXB

2017 Summer Undergraduate Research in Engineering (SURE) Projects

Aerospace Engineering (AERO)

How to Apply:

Below is a list of projects available in AERO. You are welcome to contact faculty if you have additional questions regarding these projects. If you are interested in working with a faculty mentor not listed here, you should contact him or her directly.

Before applying, applicants are required to write a statement explaining why they want to work on the project, the relevant skills that they bring and what they expect from their experience. The statement should be no longer than one page (12pt font and 1" margins) and can be uploaded in "Other" at the bottom of the online application.

Aero Project 1: Nanosatellite Modeling, Design, and Flight

Faculty mentor: Prof. James Cutler
Prerequisites: Hands-on project work or programming or analytical modeling
Project description: We are developing novel small satellite missions built on fundamental advancements in spacecraft technology. This work is multi disciplinary and involves topics such as space systems design, flight dynamics and control, astrodynamics, electrical engineering, thermal management and structural systems. Three satellite are currently in development and a fourth one has been launched. A variety of sensors and optimization algorithms are being researched as well. Regular flights of high altitude balloon flights occur during prototyping of satellite systems.

Aero Project 2: Autonomous Spacecraft Relative Motion Dynamics and Control

Faculty mentor: Prof. Ilya Kolmanovsky
Project description: The research focuses on autonomous spacecraft relative motion dynamics and control problems to enable novel capabilities for rendezvous, docking, proximity maneuvering and formation control. The scope of the project could include dynamic modeling of spacecraft relative motion, model implementation in Matlab/Simulink environment, control algorithm design, closed-loop simulations, control algorithm implementation in the relative motion laboratory, hardware experiments, and establishing (i.e., rigorously mathematically proving) relevant control-theoretic results. Of particular interest are control algorithms that are based on onboard optimization and that enforce pointwise-in-time state and control constraints during spacecraft operation. Such algorithms could be based on model predictive control or reference governors.  

Aero Project 3: Aircraft Design Optimization Studies

Faculty mentor: Prof. Joaquim R. R. A. Martins
Prerequisites: Good programming skills
Project description: Using the aircraft conceptual design software developed in the MDO Lab (, the student will evaluate various aircraft configurations and analyze the trade-offs between fuel burn, operating cost and environmental impact, while optimizing cruise speed, altitude, and the wing shape.

Aero Project 4: Microstructure reconstruction and analysis

Faculty mentor: Prof. Veera Sundararaghavan
Prerequisites: Good working knowledge of Matlab is required.
Project description: The student will develop a practical software tool for 3D reconstruction of experimental 2D images of polycrystalline and composite microstructures using the technique of Markov random fields. The dependence of the features of reconstructed microstructures on the free parameters used in the model (eg. window sizes and error thresholds) will be studied. The software tool, if successful, will greatly accelerate design and analysis of engineering properties of new aerospace materials.

Aero Project 5: Hall Effect Thruster Plume Measurements

Faculty mentor: Prof. Benjamin Jorns
Prerequisites: Hands-on project work in both mechanical and electrical engineering. Programming experience in MatLab and LabView.
Project description: The purpose of this project will be to assist with time-resolved measurements of high speed transients in the plasma plume of a Hall Effect Thruster (HET) at the Plasmadynamics and Electric Propulsion Laboratory. The student will assist with probe fabrication and experimental setup for measuring plasma properties. Additional work will involve GUI development for data visualization and developing tools for real-time diagnostics of HET operational modes.
Note: Professor Gallimore was formally listed as the faculty mentor, but the research project will remain the same. 

Aero Project 6: Bio-inspired Propulsion

Faculty mentor: Prof. Karthik Duraisamy
Project Description:
We propose here to study and understand the most basic mechanisms of swimming propulsion, including highly flexible bodies and coupled fluid-structure interaction. We will then investigate  swimming processes in detail using high resolution computational techniques. Our goal will be the development of comprehensive and progressively complex understanding of the physical processes that are of the most importance for flexible swimmers.

Aero Project 7: Simulation of Vertical Axis Wind Turbine Arraysh

Faculty mentor: Prof. Karthik Duraisamy
Project Description: The requirement of having to space Horizontal Axis Wind Turbines (HAWTs) 8-10 diameters from each other to minimize detrimental effects of aerodynamic interference has been recognized to result in limited wind farm productivity per unit of land area. Vertical axis wind turbines (VAWTs), on the other hand, have the potential to improve this situation. Although an isolated VAWT is typically less efficient than a HAWT when comparing equivalent swept areas, the land footprint spanned by a VAWT is less than that of a HAWT. Additional gains may be expected via optimal placement and direction of rotation of VAWTs in a wind farm. The objective of this work is to analyze and quantify the performance of a VAWT wind farm using a series of numerical simulations.

Aero Project 8: Biologically Inspired Wing Skins

Faculty mentor: Prof. Nakhiah Goulbourne
Prerequisites: Some hands on experimental experience
Project description: Bat wing skins have an inherent structure yielding specific macroscopic properties that enable its unique flight style and aerodynamic footprint. The objective of the project is to develop artificial wing skins with distinct architectures inspired by the natural wing morphology using 3D printing and lithography techniques influences. The mechanical properties of the artificial wing skins and accompanying wind tunnel tests will be carried out. The relationship between wing architecture and 3D wing shape will be determined experimentally.

Aero Project 9: Muscle-Activated Wing Skins

Faculty mentor: Prof. Nakhiah Goulbourne
Prerequisites: Some programming background
Project description: The objective of this project is to use the material models developed in Prof. Goulbourne’s group and implemented in ABAQUS, a finite element software, to simulate the response of a muscle-activated wing skin under various loading conditions. The influence of skin morphology and corresponding material properties (i.e. anisotropy and compliance) on 3D shape conformations will be studied. A database mapping wing architecture to characteristic 3D shapes will be constructed.

Aero Project 10: Quadrotor Environment Sensing

Faculty mentor: Prof. Ella Atkins
Prerequisites: C or C++ Programming, interest in embedded sensing systems
Project description: The objective of this project is to integrate and test pressure, laser scanning, and vision sensor systems to improve quadrotor awareness of obstacle hazards in the environment and their impact on flight. Pressure sensors can characterize steady wind and local disturbances in propeller downwash due to nearby walls/structures. Laser scanner and camera (vision) sensors can map the environment as the quadrotor flies through it. The project will emphasize software development on a Jetson TK1 equipped with CPU and GPU sufficient for onboard simultaneous localization and mapping.   Experiments will be conducted in the FXB atrium (where flight is tethered) and in a new outdoor netted facility expected to be available by June 2016. 


Aero Project 11: Cooperative Control of Unmanned Vehicles: Marsupial Systems

Faculty mentor: Prof. Anouck Girard
Project description: Many concepts for future use of robotic systems involve marsupial systems, where one vehicle can deploy and retrieve other vehicles. In many cases, a large vehicle can travel fast, then release many small vehicles that are harder to detect and may carry more accurate sensors close to an object of interest. However, little work exists as to when to deploy marsupial agents, or how to use them most effectively. We will investigate this problem in the summer, starting with non-dimensional parameter analysis, and developing preliminary results using optimal control theory. 

Aero Project 12: Measurements of Detonation Structure 

Faculty mentor: Prof. Mirko Gamba
Prerequisites: Some hands-on project experience in mechanical and electrical engineering. Good working knowledge of Matlab.
Project Description: In this project the student will assist with the development of testing hardware and diagnostics for the study of detonations in simplified configurations replicating rotating detonation engines. The project will require some analysis of existing literature data, data collection and processing, mechanical design and drafting, instrumentation selection and assembly. The student will also participate in measurement campaigns on the models developed as part of this project. 


Aero Project 13: Self-Healing Composite Materials

Faculty mentor:  Prof. Henry Sodano
Prerequisites: Have competed strength of materials course and good hands on capability
Project Description: Self-healing polymers are designed to allow damage in a composite material to be recovered either with external stimulus such as heat or autonomously such that the material can maintain its strength. In this project students will work with state of the art self-healing polymer synthesized in our lab to layup composite materials for ASTM testing. The project will expose the students to the multidisciplinary nature of composite materials and the chemical processing methods required to achieve self-healing. 

Aero Project 14: 3D Printing of Morphing Wings 

Faculty mentor:  Prof. Henry Sodano
Prerequisites: Have competed strength of materials course and good hands on capability 
Project Description: Additive manufacturing offers a shift in the way in which aircraft components are manufactured, however materials produced generally only provide mechanical properties.  In this project we are working with the Air Force Office of Scientific Research to develop a polymer actuator that can be printed such that an active wing can be formed.  The objective will be to develop a custom 3D printer and work with characterizing and optimizing the printing process to allow simultaneous printing of structural and actuation materials to form the aerodynamics surfaces of UAVs.


Aero Project 15: Simulation and Experimental Validation of a Multi-UAV Trajectory Planning Algorithm for Flight in Low Altitudes

Faculty mentor: Prof. Dimitra Panagou
Project Description: The project involves the design of a simulation environment for the testing of trajectory planning algorithms for small UAVs (fixed-wing, multi-copters) flying in low altitude environments, using tools such as MATLAB, C/C++ , Gazebo, and the experimental validation of the algorithms on a multi-UAV setting.

Expected outcome: The expected outcomes of this project are simulation results for a wide range of flight scenarios with multiple UAVs flying in low altitudes (e.g., in a city environment), and the experimental implementation of the trajectory generation algorithms using quadrotors.

Required skill set  

  • Good knowledge of MATLAB and C/++ coding
  • Knowledge of Linux architecture
  • Experience in working with control boards (mu-controllers like Raspberry-Pi and/or Arduino, or ARM processor) - Experience in working with sensors (good knowledge of sensor-hardware interfacing, data handling etc) Highly recommended (but not necessarily required) - Familiarity with ROS (Robot Operating System)
  • Experience with lab instrumentation and avionics (GPS, IMU) - Knowledge of optimization in general and Kalman-filter in particular .

Highly recommended (but not necessarily required)

  • Familiarity with ROS (Robot Operating System)
  • Experience with lab instrumentation and avionics (GPS, IMU)
  • Knowledge of optimisation in general and Kalman-filter in particular


Research Experience Programs