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Senior Design Projects

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Aerospace Senior & Graduate Projects Symposium Friday, April 21, 2023, 8 am – 4 pm MT.

Alumni and industry are welcome to attend.

Information for Industry Sponsors

The 2-semester Senior Projects course concludes the Bachelor of Science program of the Aerospace Engineering Sciences Department.

This sequence includes:

The fundamental course objective of the AES Senior Projects sequence (ASEN 4018/4028) is to teach students how to engineer a complex, inter/multidisciplinary design and implementation problem in a group environment.

Senior Projects focuses on the synthesis and application of the basic science, mathematics, engineering theory and design skills taught in the sophomore and junior years. It also provides the students with the opportunity to exercise and apply the more advanced material taught in the senior year. The course teaches basic knowledge in component and systems engineering design and provides an introduction into project management, including financial responsibility.

Senior Design Projects 2022-2023

Course Coordinator: Kathryn Wingate , Chris Muldrow

Pilot Program Mentors: The Aerospace Corporation, AeroVironment, Ball Aerospace, Blue Origin, EchoStar, L3Harris, Lockheed Martin, United Launch Alliance Traditional Program Sponsors: ASTROBi, Astroscale, Ball Aerospace, EnerSys, General Atomics, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Lockheed Martin, Dr. Francisco López Jiménez

The student project PDFs on this subpage are currently not fully accessible for individuals who use screen readers and other assistive technologies. Individuals who encounter issues accessing these documents should contact Jeff Zehnder or call (303) 492-3880 for support.

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Aerospace engineering undergrad senior design project ideas?

senior design project ideas aerospace engineering

Hey guys, coming up on my last year as an aerospace engineer undergrad and I wanted get some ideas before school started. I'm open all ideas even if they are not directly related to rockets or planes. I just want something that would be doable, challenging, but fun!

Thank you in advance:)

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Change it up and do something that swims, like a robotic fish. It's topical (the Navy actively funds this type of development) and a swimmer's motion is governed by aerodynamic principles that you learn in undergrad. Just think of an underwater task you want to complete and make something that does it (e.g., cleaning a ship hull).

Some aspects are easier than designing something that flies (you don't need to worry about generating lift to keep it in the air), but also more challenging (things need to be waterproof). Also, universities tend to have pools which make good/fun testing areas for your vehicle.

If you're interested, I wrote a chapter on bio inspired swimmers for a book called Bio-inspired design, which isn't out yet, but a preprint of the chapter is on arxiv here ( ). It covers different types of swimmer's, how they work, and proposes concept designs for vehicles that use these swimming principles. Somewhere to get started maybe!

I will definitely look into this, thank you so much!

I did a project optimising a Fixed pitch rotor blade, was super interesting.

A fixed pitch rotor blade? Can you elaborate? How can a helicopter be controlled when the pitch is fixed?

I know someone who’s final project ended up being a 1/5th scale Cessna 172.

It was pretty neat. She added bomb bays too, because what good is a model airplane if you can’t drop things on people

Man that sounds awesome! It seems your HS is way cooler than mine was

do something in quadcopters... That's cheap and a pretty cool demo.

How about a fire fighting quadcopter, when a the smoke alarms ring, it launches and does a quick survey of the building exterior while another flies the interior corridors and tries to send video really quick on who is inside the building and if they are overcome by smoke.

I have a DJI drone so this would definitely be pretty cool to do!

Design/build a radio-controlled airplane or drone from scratch.

I love this Idea!

A rocket landing via helicopter autorotation is something I was really interested in doing before I ended up joining a different team.

That sounds really cool and I would love to share that with my team.

How a about a new rocket motor design?

I have not taken rocket propulsion yet unfortunately but I would love to do that.

Since "We tried them all back in the 1960s and we already picked most of the ones that don't suck" sounds too much like I'm a hater, I'll use academician-speak and say "New rocket motor designs are likely not within the scope of a Senior Project."

A conceptual design to build Thunderbird 2 as a hybrid airship.

Nuclear powered engines, can be applied for both rockets and big boy fast planes

That would be cool! I would need to learn a little more about nuclear energy and how we could possibly use it.

Counter rotating wind turbines

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Home > Research > Student Research > Senior Projects > Aerospace Engineering

Aerospace Engineering

Aerospace Engineering

First formed as an Aeronautical Engineering Department in 1927, the Aerospace Department has continually been at the forefront of Hands On and Learn-by-Doing education. The purpose of the program was to teach students about the maintenance and repair of aircraft and their engines. Today, the Aerospace Engineering Department prepares students for work in the exciting field of aerospace engineering. Students are prepared for engineering work dealing with aerodynamics, propulsion, stability and controls, and structures of aircraft, missiles, and spacecraft.

Modified from

Senior Projects from 2015 2015

Sense and Avoid UAS Project Final Design Report , Katie Peticolas, Cesia Cazares, Trevor Elsbree, Courtney Smith, and Herberth Elie Navas

Senior Projects from 2014 2014

Investigation of Conjugate Heat Transfer in Fluid-Structure Interaction Modeling Using OpenFOAM , Andrew Brown

Senior Projects from 2013 2013

The Effects of Fabrication Methods and Cure Cycle on the Mechanical Properties of Carbon Fiber Laminate in Tensile and 3-Point Bend Testing , Adriano Agostino

Light Curve Generation for Satellites in Geostationary Orbits , Kimberly Andersen

Design and Analysis of Reusable Nozzles for Cal Poly’s Hybrid Rocket Lab , Cheyne Austin and Jose Vargas

Design of a Specimen Fixture for Impact Resistance Testing in an Instron Dynatup 8250 Drop Weight Impact Tester , Daniel Alejandro Barath

Fin Flutter Analysis , Richard Bauer and Austin Hardman

Modification of a Low Cost Vacuum Chamber for Use with an Electromagnetic Railgun , Jason M. Bertels

Creation and Analysis of an Electric and Magnetic Model of a Micro Ion Thruster , Maxwell Bodnar

Nozzle Design for the Supersonic Wind Tunnel Ramjet Attachment , Andrew Michael Carter

Synergistic Effects of Atomic Oxygen and Ultraviolet Radiation Exposure on Various Spacecraft Materials , Adrian L. Doan

Development of Random Vibration Profiles for Test Deployers to Simulate the Dynamic Environment in the Poly-Picosatellite Orbital Deployer , Steve Furger

Design and Fabrication of a Ramjet Engine , Clinton C. Humphrey


Low-Cost IMU Implementation via Sensor Fusion Algorithms in the Arduino Environment , Brandon McCarron

SMORE Revision: Ignition and User Interface , Arash Mehrparvar

Redesigned Aerospace Control System Platform for Laboratory Re-purposing , Ryan W. Moskaluk

Construction and Testing of a Quadcopter , David Roberts

Feasibility of CubeSat Formation Flight Using Rotation to Achieve Differential Drag , Skyler M. Shuford

Incorporating Aluminum Honeycomb to Increase Efficiency of U-tube Removable Heat Exchanger , Daniel Soto and Daniel Corona

Ramjet Combustion Chamber , Paul Cameron Stone

Paschen Breakdown in a CO2 Atmosphere , Matthew T. Stumbo

Thermal Vacuum Chamber Operation and Testing , Leila Tebyani

Control System Infrastructure for the Cal Poly Human Powered Helicopter: Upturn II , Douglas A. Thornber and Samuel J. Wahyou

Study of Natural Composite Materials Square Beam under Three Point Bending Test , Casey Wu

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Senior projects.

Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering Program

Capstone Program

The two-semester Capstone program (MAE 4800 and 4810) provides an opportunity for students to solve real engineering problems while working closely with faculty and industry sponsors. Sponsors provide the project requirements, funding, and mentorship, the faculty provide overall project guidance and management, and the students provide the solutions.

The overall program goal is to improve students’ “design to realization” skills. Student progress is closely monitored through lectures, lab sessions, formal design reviews, informal meetings, and oral presentations. The program also incorporates cutting edge modeling and management software to help familiarize students with tools they will likely encounter during their careers.

Sponsors benefit by having one of their important engineering problems be the top priority of a student team. Often these projects are ones the sponsor may not have the time or resources to pursue internally. Having a committed student team dedicated to the project provides the sponsor with a very cost-effective solution. The sponsor also receives all IP, documentation, prototypes, and materials from the project. One additional benefit of the program is that students become familiar with a corporate environment and how things get done in that industry.

Multidisciplinary projects, including mechanical and aerospace engineering students and faculty and students from other USU departments, are encouraged. Projects of this type more closely resemble those they will encounter in industry.

Capstone I (MAE 4800) – Project Design

At the start of the first semester students select a project they would like to work on from among the potential projects submitted by sponsors. Student project teams are formed and each team meets with its sponsor to understand and refine the project requirements. These requirements, when combined with independent research, become the basis for the project design plan document. The document outlines the planned engineering methodologies, schedules, budgets, and any specialized materials.

During this semester, students present peer-critiqued formal design reviews. Sponsors are highly encouraged to attend these reviews and provide guidance.

Capstone II (MAE 4810) – Project Build

This semester’s focus is on the construction of the project. The teams create, test, refine, and demonstrate engineering prototypes. At the end of the semester, each team provides a written design document and delivers their final prototypes. The report summarizes the project, describes the alternate solutions considered, and details the selected final design. Each team also delivers an oral presentation of the completed project to the sponsor, faculty advisors, and peers.

Project Success

Three hundred plus capstone projects have been successfully completed over the life of the program. Some have resulted in marketable products and several more are in various stages of determining their marketability.

Several projects have received national and international recognition including multiple awards in government and industry sponsored student competitions. Some recent examples include:

Projects completed for industry sponsors during the 2019-2020 academic year include test systems, new designs, proof of concept, automations, and product improvements.


Projects are more likely to be successful when sponsors are involved with the project outcome. Sponsors are asked to designate a mentor from their organization to work with the student team. Mentors provide critical insights that help to ensure projects meet their design requirements. This mentorship is invaluable to a project’s success.

Our sponsors represent a broad cross-section of industry and government including companies in the manufacturing, construction, health care, education, aerospace, consumer, and defense segments. We gratefully acknowledge their support!

Some of our current sponsors include:


If you have a project you would like to sponsor, please contact us at [email protected] to set up a time to talk about the project and how best to schedule its inclusion in the program.

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Capstone Design Projects

Consider partnering with Penn State to sponsor a senior capstone design project. Projects are offered as part of the Learning Factory and provide practical hands-on experience to students in a number of engineering disciplines.

Interdisciplinary teams of students work together to tackle projects sponsored by industrial clients. These teams collaborate with engineering faculty, who serve as mentors and advisers, to devise ideas to solve engineering problems. Students take these ideas from concept to reality by designing, prototyping, and simulating real solutions in state-of-the-art facilities.

This program challenges students to apply the knowledge and tools acquired during their undergraduate education to solve real-world engineering problems. It provides a unique opportunity for industry to partner with Penn State to help educate the next generation of world-class engineers.

Benefits to Sponsors:

How to become a Sponsor:

Contact the Learning Factory staff to talk about sponsoring a project. A sample of past projects can also be found on the Learning Factory site.

The Penn State Department of Aerospace Engineering, established in 1961 and the only aerospace engineering department in Pennsylvania, is consistently recognized as one of the top aerospace engineering departments in the nation, and is also an international leader in aerospace education, research, and engagement. Our undergraduate program is ranked 15 th and our graduate programs are ranked 15 th nationally by U.S. News & World Report , while one in 25 holders of a B.S. degree in aerospace engineering in the U.S. earned it from Penn State. Our students are consistently among the most highly recruited by industry, government, and graduate schools nationwide.

The department is built upon the fundamentals of academic integrity, innovation in research, and commitment to the advancement of industry. Through an innovative curriculum and world-class instruction that reflects current industry practice and embraces future trends, Penn State Aerospace Engineering graduates emerge as broadly educated, technically sound aerospace engineers who will become future leaders in a critical industry

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Department of Aerospace Engineering

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Phone: 814-865-2569

Penn State Aerospace Engineering

Senior Capstone Projects

Undergraduate students participate in a rigorous design-and-build project focusing on the skills and knowledge unique to the field of aerospace engineering.

All projects provide students with focused mentoring, an opportunity to engage in interdisciplinary teamwork, practice communication skills and gain a deeper knowledge of regulatory requirements; fiscal and procurement management; social and ethical considerations and market awareness.

We offer a variety of project opportunities within the industry, student organizations and in-house research. Students also have the option to propose their own projects. Some of our past completed projects range from Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), CubeSats, rocket launches, drones, and supersonic flight. Applications have covered search and rescue, wildlife conservation, essential deliveries, environmental preservation, and more.

Capstone options

When selecting a capstone project, students should weigh their research and subject interests, relevant skills to contribute and career goals.

As part of the industry capstone program, students participate in company-sponsored projects that tackle real-world, multidisciplinary engineering problems while receiving support and mentorship from their sponsors.

Students in select A&A-affiliated RSOs may choose to advance their annual projects through their senior capstone. Recent RSO capstones have included SARP, SEDS and A&A CubeSat.  

Faculty-led research capstone projects advance the theoretical understanding of aerospace topics and can involve focused, specialized research or more expansive concepts. When sponsored by industry or government organizations, these projects generally entail wider aircraft design or space systems.

Large team projects must accommodate both domestic and international students, so the selected topics must not involve any constraints related to export-controlled material. Some projects may require US citizenship and/or NDA constraints.

2022-2023 projects

AeroTEC This team will develop next generation test capabilities by the development of physical test vehicles, test sites, and an accompanying simulator. The simulator will have true-to-life design and will be used for future test team training.

AeroVironment This team will demonstrate the feasibility of deploying two quadcopter aircraft from the payload bay of a hand-launchable UAV. A quadcopter will then recover from tumble after deployment and execute a mission to fly to a GPS located target where it will relay video footage back to a ground station.

Boeing Structural This team will optimize the design of a DC-9 passenger airplane door hinge. The component will be optimized for material strength and structural design while conforming to space constraints.

Boeing Utility Freighter This team will design a purpose built freighter for use in servicing small airports in outlying areas. The freighter will prioritize sustainability and will be able to carry the same main deck ULDs used by heavy freighters along with carrying a mechanism for loading and unloading with limited ground handling equipment.

Empowered Startups This team will design and manufacture a RC drone prototype to monitor and record real-time environmental conditions beyond visual line-of-sight (BVLOS). The drone will accompany software that uploads recorded data to a cloud and presents it in a user-friendly and easily processable format.

Formula SAE Space Frame Attachment This team   will design and manufacture novel attachment joints to connect the vehicles’ carbon fiber space frame to its monocoque chassis. The team will perform a trade study of different types of attachment points to optimize and validate joint strength.

HSL Thruster This team will develop a cold gas propulsion system for stable control of a cubesat in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). This system will be functionable for a variety of ultrasmall satellites and will provide thrust to enable impulsive orbit maneuvers.

NASA SCALOS This team will contribute to a 3-year NASA university-led Commercial Supersonics Technology project by studying and selecting supersonic commercial configurations that demonstrate acceptable low-speed performance and low-sonic boom characteristics. Their goal is to conduct research on the low speed performance of such configurations utilizing CFD and wind tunnel tests of scaled radio-controlled flight test models.

NASA SUITS This team will work on developing an innovative spacesuit user interface leveraging augmented reality. The AR software will incorporate peripheral devices and provide Artemis astronauts with appropriate human-autonomy enabling technology necessary for the elevated demands of lunar surface exploration and terrestrial access.

SARP Composite Overlayed Nose Cone This team will develop a carbon fiber nose cone utilizing more simple and efficient manufacturing techniques. The nose cone will sit atop a solid-propelled rocket and be aerodynamically and structurally optimized for projected rocket performance.

SARP Electropump This team will develop the design tools necessary to manufacture electric turbomachinery for high performance rocket engines. The system will be able to handle cryogenic transport, meet current requirements in terms of SARP’s next-generation engines, and will aim to match industry capabilities.

SARP Cold Gas Reaction Control System This team will develop a cold gas reaction control system for active control of the SARP rocket in a vacuum. This system will be functionable in space after rocket burnout and will provide stability and partially replace fin function during launch.

Turion Space This team will develop a testing apparatus for space-rated attachment mechanisms purposed for active removal of space debris as well as service and manufacture operations of satellites in orbit. The test mechanism will be functional in vacuum to replicate a space-like environment.

2020-2021 projects

The AeroVironment capstone team field testing the deployment mechanism of an RC quadcopter.

AeroVironment UAV

This team will demonstrate the feasibility of deploying one or more quadcopter aircraft from the payload bay of an RC plane. The quadcopter will then recover from tumble and execute a mission to fly to a GPS located target where it will relay video footage back to a ground station.

Garrett Jordan, Monica Kim, Max McGowan, Icevar Naguleswaran, Devon Smith, Chris Won. Advisers: Matt Keenon and Kristi Morgansen

The Applewhite Aerobaton prototype for remote response designed by the UW Applewhite Capstone team for Applewhite Aero.

Applewhite Baton

This team will lock down a configuration for the Applewhite Aero Baton Prototype. Applewhite wants to streamline compatibility of their parts. Additionally, they are creating and implementing an interface for autonomous deployment of the Baton (from an air vehicle).

Joseph Bellevue, Jillian Hottelli, Janet Liu, Brian Mach, Haley Stewart, Ethan Uehara  Adviser: Kristi Morgansen

A disaster response UAV aircraft designed alongside Boeing by the UW Boeing Capstone Team.

Boeing Disaster Response UAV

This team will design an emergency response, high endurance UAV, carrying a payload that can provide cellular coverage to an operating area in addition to cameras. Some of their requirements include a minimum of 12 hours endurance and a takeoff and land within 1000 feet.

Isaiah Cuadras, Drake King, Jacqueline Marquette, Howard Peng, Sam Reissman, Eric Rubhaka, Quintin Serrano, Victor Via, Jinhee Xu, Mitsuki Yonder Advisers: Gary Cohen, Eli Levin, and Matthew Orr

A Supersonic Cruise Reference airliner concept simulated by the UW Supersonic Capstone team in conjunction with NASA SCALOS efforts.

NASA Supersonic Airplane Design (SCALOS)

This team will contribute to a 3-year NASA university-led Commercial Supersonics Technology project by studying and selecting supersonic commercial configurations that demonstrate acceptable low-speed performance and low-sonic boom characteristics. Their goal is to conduct design, analysis, and development of performance and S&C predictions via simulation software to further define the Supersonic Cruise Reference airliner concept for use by the NASA grant SCALOS effort.

Austin Chandra, Brendan Geffe, Nathan Han, Danny Beeson, Colton Hill, Anant Kapur, Shelby Lee, Zhangsheng Lian, Pascal Nagata, Anwar Moustafa, Ignacio Re, Michael Stemen, Vinsensius  Advisers: Eli Livne and Chet Nelson

CAD model of a 6U satellite computational mechanism designed by the CUBESAT team.

6U Cubesat: Maratus Mission

This team will launch and operation a 6U satellite holding an optical payload designed to measure ambient gases between galaxies. Their goal is to collect data to improve the current computational model of the circumgalactic medium.

Nicholas Chu, Athil George, Thomas Key, Luke Kuklenski, Carie Lai, Jae Lee, Josh MacLurg, Nicholas Sianghio, Nicholas Toyama, Eric Wills Advisers: Charlie Kelly and Taylor Reynolds

SARP Propulsion design for 70 lbf thrust vectored aerospike engine.

SARP Propulsion: Aerospike Nozzle

This team will develop a subscale rocket engine utilizing an aerospike nozzle geometry with implementation of thrust vector control using fluid injection.

Kristina Dong, Josh Forsythe, Michelle Graebner, Adrian Lo, Jared Smythe, Zach Tom, Oliver Ruo, Chris van den Heuvel, Catherine Wilborn Advisers: Jim Hermanson and Ms. Nyssa Thompson

SARP Designs for a Traditional and Composite Aluminum Coupler.

SARP Structures: Composite Recovery Coupler

This team will create a lighter, stronger Recovery Coupler for the current SARP rocket, Pacific Impulse, out of composite material.

Greg Boyce, Zach Gommi, Cat Hannahs, Gabby McDaniel, Toby Moreno  Advisers: Ed Habtour and Kiefer Dundas (Janicki Industries)

Launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, United States.

SEDS: RRC Multistage Rocket

This team will design, construct, and fly a 1 kg scientific payload to an altitude of 10K ft on a rocket with the use of only Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) motors.

Alex Barbera, Bao Truong, Caroline Paxton, Kyle Fisher, Noah Piper, Steven Tu, Taylor Mills, Wenkang Wang Adviser: Kristi Morgansen

Of the 64 satellites on board the SSO-A ride-share mission, 49 of them are cubesats. This illustration shows how these cubesats will be deployed in low-Earth orbit.

SOC-i Cubesat: GNC Hardware

This team will create a GNC sensor and actuator system. This is done through a GNC operating loop, which runs continuously during flight to control the satellite’s altitude.

Branton Bradford, Ryan Lorette, William Pope, Alex Zhen  Advisers: Charlie Kelly and Taylor Reynolds

Past projects

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See projects details

Industry-sponsored capstone program

The UW College of Engineering (COE) Industry Sponsored Capstone Program is a college-wide effort that is designed to provide effective project-based and team-based education of undergraduate students to meet the needs of engineering, science and industry.

To learn about sponsoring an Aeronautics & Astronautics Capstone project, visit the COE Industry Capstone Program .


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