The goal of this Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program is to promote greater participation of underrepresented minority (URM) students in aerospace engineering research on unmanned-aerial systems (UAS). To achieve this goal, the Department of Aerospace Engineering at Iowa State University offers the REU site, entitled Launching Aerospace’s Underrepresented Students into the Next Chapter-Unmanned Aerial Systems (LAUNCH-UAS). There are four objectives for this site:
- Provide students with cutting-edge summer research experience in UAS,
- Expose students to aerospace research projects and engineers,
- Develop students’ research and professional skills to prepare them for graduate programs, and
- Provide students with opportunities to build a community of mentors for graduate programs and beyond.
The LAUNCH-UAS site will bring together URM students and a broad range of members of the aerospace engineering community to break down barriers for URM students to participate in the aerospace field. Potential benefits to society as a result of this site include: developing well prepared, motivated URM students who want to pursue aerospace engineering graduate programs and enter the workforce; educating aerospace engineers who are knowledgeable about opportunities within aerospace academia and industry and will eventually serve as inspiring mentors to future generations of URM engineers; and sharing key components and lesson learned from the LAUNCH-UAS site to the broader U.S. colleges and universities.
Through a 10-week summer LAUNCH-UAS site, URM students will have an opportunity to conduct research on operation and autonomy aspects of long-endurance UAS. Students will participate in one of multiple independent research projects relating to UAS, such as developing onboard hardware that continuously monitors essential UAS components for safe and autonomous operation; model and simulate low-altitude traffic management systems for autonomous UAS; model and simulate the operation of UAS and examine their ethical, legal, societal, and environmental implications; develop an inductive charging capability for supplying power to UAS while in operation; design, build, and experiment with onboard spray systems for UAS and characterize the spray droplets; develop low-power anti-/de-icing techniques and examine various icephobic coatings for safer long-term autonomous UAS flights; and create an educational module that increases engineers’ awareness of ethical issues surrounding the operation of UAS. In addition to conducting independent research on UAS, students will participate in a number of LAUNCH-UAS site components that include professional development workshops, field trips and lab tours, research luncheon seminars, and social activities. There is also a series of assignments intended to give students opportunities to prepare presentations and documents typical of those that they would be expected to complete as independent researchers and as graduate students.