A Final Year in Engineering Paradise

Alex-2016 Alex Leave a Comment

Alas, senior year has finally come. I have only one more year in the engineering paradise called the Viterbi School of Engineering. While I will be returning to SC for a fifth year to pursue a Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering, my final year of undergraduate studies will form the capstone to my Viterbi engineering experience.

Now, I truly intend to make the best of this final year. Already, I cannot wait to soak up the sun at USC football games, and I have plans to camp a weekend in Yosemite National Park. However, I am most excited for the senior year once-in-a-lifetime academic experiences. With three years of engineering training under my belt, I am ready to take on more challenging projects and put my skills to the test.

My senior design project is the first major opportunity on the horizon. Every senior aerospace, mechanical, and astronautical engineering student at Viterbi undergoes a senior design project to demonstrate he or she developed practical engineering knowledge in their four years at SC. My project is a bipropellant liquid rocket engine! Kerosene is our fuel, and hydrogen peroxide is our oxidizer. My project will determine the optimum impingement angle for generating thrust. Simply put, at what angle should a jet of fuel impact a jet of oxidizer in order to create the maximum thrust? NASA says 60 degrees, but my team is not convinced that parameter applies to the kerosene and hydrogen peroxide, nontraditional propellant choices. If the engine works, I can truly say I am a rocket scientist.

The final assembly of my senior design project, modeled in Solidworks.

The final assembly of my senior design project, modeled in Solidworks.

The second opportunity involves USC’s Rocket Propulsion Lab. If you remember from my previous blogs, I have been involved in Rocket Lab for two years now. So what makes this year special? Well, my senior year is my final chance to put a vehicle into outer space with the lab. As a senior member, I can have a major role in ensuring this launch is a success. In October, Rocket Lab will launch a low-altitude (~30,000 ft) flight vehicle to test our dual-deployment parachute recovery system, which has never been tested in flight before. If the system works, I will work hard to optimize the system for space launch by shrinking the system’s mass and volume. If the system fails to work, I will work with our recovery lead, Monica, to develop a completely new recovery system. Considering the lab will attempt a space shot in February, Monica and I will have a short timeline to build a recovery system from scratch. I am looking forward to the challenge!

Welcome to Black Rock Desert, Nevada, home of the DCX launch.

Welcome to Black Rock Desert, Nevada, home of the DCX launch.

The third major senior year academic goal is to take full advantage of iPodia. iPodia is an interactive, multi-national course that combines students from the Viterbi School of Engineering and the Marshall School of Business to work on tackling global engineering issues. Every Monday morning, I will Skype with students from Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Aachen, Germany. How cool is that? In my opinion, iPodia prepares students for the global economy and large engineering corporations with offices overseas. At the end of the semester, I will travel to Aachen with the iPodia class to meet the other students from around the globe.

Last semester's iPodia class Skyping with students from around the world.

Last semester’s iPodia class Skyping with students from around the world.

As you can probably see, life does not get much better than senior year at Viterbi. As the real world quickly approaches, I plan to make the most of the opportunities USC has made available to me; I will most likely not be this fortunate again. So, while I am melancholy to be a senior, much is to be done and an exciting year is ahead!

For more information on my year, please continue reading my blogs at my student page! Just go to this link: Alex’s Student Page. Fight on!




Astronautical Engineering, Class of 2016, Learn more on his profile here!

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