Encouraging Others in Engineering Research

In this post, aerospace engineering major and University Scholar Kanika Gakhar ‘18 describes her experience on the Texas A&M Society of Automotive Engineering AERO Design Team and how she plans to use her experience to become an aerospace engineer.

By Kanika Gahkar

University Scholar Kanika Gakhar '18
University Scholar Kanika Gakhar ’18

The Texas A&M Society of Automotive Engineering (SAE) AERO Design Team is a student-run organization of 20 members that participates in the annual international SAE Aero Design Competition. This competition challenges teams to design, build, and fly a remote controlled aircraft capable of lifting an internally stored payload within the competition constraints. This year, my team will be returning as the reigning international champions as we took first in the Oral Presentation, second in the Written Report, and first in the Flight Portion, barely edging out a very competitive Canadian team in the 2014 competition. Our margin for victory came down to less than one point, highlighting the combined efforts of the whole team as we took first overall in an international competition.

When I had learned to tame my ideas and use sophisticated research methods to design engineering products, I looked for a hands-on experience. Before I could move on to innovate bio-influenced aviation technology, I had to understand the current engineering process involved in the building of unmanned aerial vehicles. So, I joined the Society of Automotive Engineering International Aero-Design Team.

As a member of the structures sub-team for the Texas A&M Society of Automotive Engineering AERO Design Team, I am currently working on building a radio-controlled aircraft. Being the only sophomore on the team, I had a hard time initially coping with the workload of my project and keeping up with my upper-classmen teammates. However, I stayed up late at night and tried to do additional research; I searched and searched till I found links between my introductory Aerospace courses and my project assignments. Now, as I work on the wing structures for our airplane, I simplify complex relationships using programming languages and fundamentals taught in freshman classes. I analyze the load distributions and force interactions to model the tandem wing. Laser cutting wood and bending sheet metal gives me hands-on experience. Outdoor flight runs and wind-tunnel testing helps me reflect on the effect of mathematical assumptions on real world situations. Additionally, I use my experience in material analysis from my research in ‘Applications of Shape Memory Alloys’ to work with my team on material testing. Hence, the knowledge gained from my various courses, in addition to my self-motivated research and learning, is helping me elevate myself to the level of my senior teammates and work with them diligently to design our structurally sound aircraft.

As a part of this student-run organization, my team of 20 members participates in the annual international SAE Aero Design Competition. This competition challenges teams to design, build, and fly a remote controlled aircraft capable of lifting an internally stored payload within the competition constraints. This year we will be returning as the reigning international champions as we took first in the Oral Presentation, second in the Written Report, and first in the Flight Portion, barely edging out a very competitive Canadian team in the 2014 competition. Our margin for victory came down to less than one point, highlighting the combined efforts of the whole team as we took first overall in an international competition.

As an aspiring aerospace engineer, I am very fortunate to be granted the opportunity to be on such a prestigious team; this team emulates industry by following a design process with technical analysis, experimentation, and trade-off studies, giving students the opportunity to gain experience unavailable in a classroom environment.

I hope to be able to share my story with the rest of the honors community and encourage them to expand their limits. Using myself as an example, I would like to show the students not to be afraid to chase their dreams even when they think they aren’t ready. In order to do this, I hope to conduct an outdoor session; in this session, I will share my first-hand engineering experiences with the rest of the honors society by conducting a flight demo where my team and I demonstrate our automated aircraft in action. This demo will help the students see tangible proof of my research and encourage them to step outside their comfort zones to expand their horizons. I will also work on recording footage of my team’s progress and my personal and professional development. I will finally compile all the footage in a short, fun video that students can watch at their own leisure.

Kanika’s project was supported, in part, with a University Scholar development grant. Enriching opportunities such as this one are made possible due to the generous support of the University Scholars program by the Association of Former Students.

Due to inclement weather, Kanika’s demo will be rescheduled. Stay tuned for the official date of Kanika’s flight demo.

 

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