Aerospace Engineering Club aims high

June 29, 2017


John Stack
Staff Reporter | jes062@ latech.edu


The new College of Engineering and Science’s (COES) Aerospace Engineering Club has high sights for the potential of both the students here at Louisiana Tech and for the school itself.


As of April 8, the Louisiana Tech Aerospace Engineering Club has successfully completed the second mission in its “Harley” high altitude balloon project.


The goal of “Harley II” was to launch a payload containing a GoPro camera, 3D printed bulldog and the necessary tracking equipment on a large helium weather balloon to an altitude of 115,000 feet to collect video and photo of the flight. The GoPro was able to capture the horizon of Earth at that altitude, with the 3D printed bulldog in the frame.


John Aguillard, president of the club and a sophomore electrical engineering major, explained the reasoning behind doing this.


Photo from Aerospace Engineering Club GoPro of Harley II reaching 115,000 feet. – Photos submitted by Aerospace Engineering Club

“Our goal was to take a photo of a bulldog with the curvature of the earth in the background,” Aguillard said. “Also, to promote to the public the College of Engineering and Science’s ability to tackle high-risk aerospace engineering challenges.”


He said when they launched a weather balloon over 115,000 feet (about four times the height at which passenger jets cruise) they got back some pictures that will be released for the E & S (Engineering and Science) Day.


“We’re coordinating with the communication department to turn some of our photos and videos into desktop wallpapers and promotional materials for Tech,” Aguillard said. “We’re trying to secure a contract from NASA to build a satellite here at Tech.”


Riley Luttgeharm, vice president and a sophomore electrical engineering major, said this will benefit Tech.


“For this particular launch, we wanted to retrieve photos and videos for the university to use on their social media,” Luttgeharm said. “In the future, we hope to continue to grow the club into multiple different opportunities.”


He said there will be several steps in realizing this.


“First, we have already started to plan a high school outreach competition for high schools in the area to build and compete for a chance to design a payload for us to send up,” Luttgeharm said. “Also, there is the long-term goal of someday opening up an aerospace department through the university.”


He said this is an ambitious goal, but they must start somewhere.


T.J. Spence, adjunct instructor in the department of electrical engineering, is the club’s faculty adviser and wanted to share the overall efficacy of the club.


“Currently the club is one of the largest student organizations in the COES with approximately 50-60 members,” Spence said. “The club’s main activities are extracurricular engineering design projects that focus on aerospace and atmospheric sciences; the students do the fundraising, mission planning, prototyping and fabrication on their own with guidance from the involved faculty members.”


He said the group is interdisciplinary by nature, with all kinds of engineering majors and even non-engineering students participating and taking leadership roles.


“The students gain hands-on engineering experience with large scale projects not typically seen in their coursework until senior year, requiring long term planning and preliminary testing,” Spence said. “With the high-altitude balloon projects’ the stakes are much higher than the students are used to, as the failure of a mission could lead to the loss of thousands of dollars of money which they raised themselves.”


He said project experience like this is very valuable to students when applying for jobs because they will be able to point to a proven record of responsibility as well as an increased familiarity with engineering design techniques and principles as compared to their peers.


“The club also provides an excellent opportunity for younger students to interact with and learn from upperclassmen engineering students, which I believe is one of the most important things freshman and sophomore engineering majors can do to enhance their education outside of the classroom,” Spence said. “The club is also dedicated to the enhancement of the university and its image.”


He said the most recent high altitude balloon mission, Harley II, was entirely dedicated to generating public relations materials for the university from the high-altitude camera footage, and a longer-term goal of the club is to attract the attention of NASA and other potential aerospace industry employers to the university.


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