Unmanned Aerial System interoperability. Inverse finite element method investigation. Aeroacoustic studies of bodies in a moving fluid. High accuracy air traffic control speech recognition system. Real-time classification of operator attentional state using electroencephalography.
This is the language of aeronautics leaders of the near future. It may sound foreign, but it speaks to the work NASA is doing to benefit the nation's air transportation system. And it is the language being spoken by more than 40 college-age students who recently visited NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.
During a two-day event called "Ideas in Flight," interns from NASA's Aeronautics Scholarship Program and Aeronautics Academies briefed NASA leadership on their experiences working with researchers over the summer at NASA's Ames Research Center, NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, NASA's Glenn Research Center, and NASA's Langley Research Center.
"I think you have incredible ideas … many of them we will see take shape over the years," said NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden. "Many years from now, some of the ideas and the projects you worked on, you'll be sitting with your grandkids and you will be able to say 'yeah, I worked on that.'"
Presentation topics included aerodynamic research to lower drag, strategies for how to integrate unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace, advancements in aeroacoustics research, options for using speech recognition tools in an air traffic control setting, toolbox development for analysis of subscale aircraft, characteristics of synthetic jet fuels, intelligent aircraft engines for next generation air transportation, and more.
The technologies had a common goal - to help the United States retain a leadership role in aviation by transforming the air transportation system, maintaining safety, and reducing aircraft noise, emissions and fuel use.
The purpose of "Ideas in Flight" was to give students a taste of what it's like to present before a professional audience; something that real-life scientists do on a regular basis. Through the two days, NASA senior leadership including Administrator Bolden, Aeronautics Research Mission Director Associate Administrator Jaiwon Shin, and aeronautics research program directors attended the presentations.
Many students admitted their summer internship experiences were like "drinking from a fire hose." Some ended up getting plugged into research areas that were not in their direct field of study. Students in the Aeronautics Academies that operates by teams were challenged by having to suddenly work on a highly technical project with a group of strangers for the next few weeks.
From listening to their presentations, though, it was clear that they stepped up to the challenge.
Students also talked about what working at NASA meant to them. "I am a computer scientist. I couldn't begin to tell you how much I knew about aeronautics coming in this summer; actually it was very little," said Justin Nelson from the University of Wisconsin. "So I got to expand my spectrum of knowledge. And remember that computers need programming. In aeronautics, planes have computers. So computer scientists are needed. And one of the coolest things in the world to say is 'I work for NASA.' I have code back at Langley on a NASA computer. How many computer scientists get to say 'I have code on a computer at NASA.'? That's awesome. That's just awesome."
View List of "Ideas in Flight" Presenters and Presentations →
Apply for NASA Aeronautics Scholarship →
Apply to NASA Academies →