Contact: Linda Weiss

AERO Undergrad Coordinator

Aerospace Engineering

Michigan Engineering

(734) 764-3310

1216B FXB

2015 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: Structural Health Monitoring of Aerospace Structures

Faculty Mentor: Prof. Carlos E.S. Cesnik
Project description: Using specially designed sensors, detect damage in composite plates, panels and other aerospace structures. Experimentally oriented project that involves scanning laser vibrometer tests, composite plate manufacturing and data processing. Previous experimental experience is desirable but not required.

Aero Project 2: X-HALE aircraft

Faculty mentor: Prof. Carlos E.S. Cesnik
Project description: A very flexible aircraft is being developed to test aeroelastic response under large deformations. The project involves computational and experimental problems involving aerodynamics, structures, flight software, controls, composite manufacturing, wind tunnel test, etc. It is a sample of a true aeronautical development. Different skills are desirable depending on the area of work.

Aero Project 3: Nanosatellite Modeling, Design, and Flight

Faculty mentor: Prof. James Cutler
Prerequisites: Hands-on project work or programming or analytical modeling
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 4: Adaptive Autonomous Fuel Economy Model Agent

Faculty mentor: Prof. Ilya Kolmanovsky
Project description: The objective of the project is to create an autonomous learning ``composite car” fuel economy model agent for use in vehicle routing optimization projects. We will use the model to test several hypothesis related to automotive vehicles and their fuel consumption. In the first stage of the project, data mining techniques in Excel and Matlab will be applied to publicly available data (such as in Consumer Reports) to model highway, city and combined fuel economy of various vehicles as a function of vehicle parameters (weight, engine displacement, etc.). We will investigate which parameters the model should depend on and determine the coefficients using statistical least squares fitting techniques. In the second phase of the project, we will use the model to test several hypothesis related to automotive vehicles, automotive companies and vehicle fuel consumption. In the third phase of the project we will seek to convert the model to an autonomous software agent that is capable of automatically fetching the data on fuel consumption of new vehicles over the internet and updating the model coefficients on the fly.

Aero Project 5: 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 6: 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 7: Hall Effect Thruster Plume Measurements

Faculty mentor: Prof. Alec Gallimore
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.

Project 8: A Statistical Treatment of Numerical Error

Faculty mentor: Prof. Chris Fidkowski
Project Description: Numerical error affects many computational simulations, especially those of fluid dynamics. This error arises from insufficient mesh or time step resolution, but it is difficult to quantify for many realistic simulations in aerospace engineering. Existing methods for quantifying these errors often involve expensive additional calculations, and the estimated errors can themselves be inaccurate. An improved method may come from a statistical interpretation of how finite mesh resolution leads to numerical error. This project would involve preliminary experimentation using existing computational fluid dynamics codes, as well as fundamental research using simplified models. The project is geared for students with some background in programming and probability/statistics.

Aero Project 9: Interplanetary CubeSat Propulsion

Faculty mentor: Dr. J.P. Sheehan
Prerequisites: Hands-on project work in both mechanical and electrical engineering. Programming experience in MatLab and LabView, and/or CAD experience.
Project description: The purpose of this project will be to assist with either design of components for a CubeSat thruster unit and/or to help in the initial setup of a new vacuum chamber for testing small (~10 Watt) plasma thrusters and associated subsystems. This work will be conducted in the Plasmadynamics and Electric Propulsion Laboratory. The student will assist with diagnostics fabrication, and experimental setup for measuring plasma properties of a prototype thruster. Some work may also involve testing components on high altitude weather balloons in realistic temperature, pressure and radiation environments.

Aero Project 10: 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 11: 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 12: 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 13: 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 14: 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, inertial, and vision sensor systems to improve quadrotor awareness of obstacle hazards in the environment and their impact on flight. Pressure sensors can detect disturbances to expected downwash, for example, due to nearby walls/structures. Inertial and vision sensors will enable correlation of pressure measurements with vehicle attitude and motion. Data acquisition, signal filtering, and processing will be performed on a Beaglebone Black embedded processor (C) with additional post-processing (Matlab). Data collection will be performed with the quadrotor statically mounted and flown (tethered) in the FXB atrium. 


Aero Project 15: 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.

Research Experience Programs