Engineers Without Borders: Learning the Importance of Community

I am not one to usually go outside of my comfort zone, but this year I was determined to change that. Joining the Engineers Without Borders (EWB) club at Hope College seemed like a great place to start. By working to provide clean water to Bondo, Kenya, I would be able to satisfy my desire to help people while also applying engineering skills. This participation in EWB had a significant impact on me, which I was not entirely expecting.

EWB Travel Team (left to right): Rebekah Ludema (’22), Cameron Maloney (’23), Dale Nowicki, Nick Frank, Brianna Rucinski (’23), Caroline Burkhardt (’22), Chris Rexroth (’22), Krista Nelson (’21)

Even the best plans change during a pandemic

Six students, including myself, and two mentors planned on traveling to Bondo, Kenya in March 2020. The goal of the trip was to install a well in the community. On March 12th we started the trip to Africa with a 3 hour drive to Chicago O’Hare airport. While at the check-in counter, we received a call that Hope College and EWB-USA were restricting travel due to COVID-19.  We returned back to campus, disappointed in our inability to travel to the community.  We did continue to manage the project remotely and a new well was installed by the end of the month.

I am proud of the community for continuing the work to complete the new well. The videos and pictures that we were sent during the construction were inspiring and helped overcome the disappointment of not traveling. Seeing the joy on the community members’ faces while using the well made me grateful for the mission of EWB. It became very clear to me how much a group of people can accomplish if they work together.

Drilling the borehole for the well in Bondo, Kenya
Bondo community members using the new well

But lessons learned last forever

When I joined Engineers Without Borders I was not planning on being part of the travel team. But through the support of friends and family, I made the decision to go further out of my comfort zone than I ever had before. I learned how important it is to lean on those around you and also support them in their own endeavors. Such a supportive community enabled significant personal growth for me and I am grateful for that. 

Engineering Student Award Winners for ’19-’20

The Engineering Department is pleased to announce our annual year-end student awards. This list of awardees represents just the tip of the iceberg of the amazing engineering students at Hope College. Descriptions of the awards and some information about the recipients are give below.

Senior Engineering Prize
Headshot of senior engineering award winner Alyssa VanZanten
Alyssa VanZanten ’20, Chemical Concentration

Alyssa VanZanten was selected by the engineering faculty to received the Senior Engineering Prize. This award is given to the senior student who is the most outstanding student in engineering. Alyssa researched advanced materials at Hope for two summers, was awarded a nationally competitive SCI Scholar internship at Honeywell, and co-founded the Women in Science and Engineering group at Hope. This upcoming fall, Alyssa will begin her doctoral studies in Materials Science and Engineering at Michigan State University, where she was awarded an Engineering Distinguished Scholarship for her first year of graduate study.

The VanPutten Engineering Design Prize

The VanPutten Prize is given by the Engineering faculty to a graduating engineering student who shows exceptional ability, interest, and accomplishment in engineering design. This award is named in honor of Professor James VanPutten in recognition of his accomplishments in engineering design and his efforts to establish the engineering program at Hope College. This year two students received the VanPutten award, Anna Wormmeester and Devin Hiemstra. Anna worked on a client supplied design project, the Namaste Task Light. The goal was to create an aesthetically pleasing, fully functional task light, that satisfied a variety of design requirements and lighting codes. She particularly enjoyed working with the microcontroller that was used to control all of the light’s functions. The goal of Devin’s project was to develop an automated decision-making tool  that optimized the construction of residential walls for homes constructed in the context of disaster relief housing initiatives. He was particularly engaged in programming the decision making tool and performing thermal simulations of a variety of wall material types. Anna will be joining Dematic as a Software Engineer in their autonomous vehicle group. Devin will be joining Tekton, a hand tool company, as a Product Developer.

Blok-Williams Graduate Study Award

Alex Osterbaan received the Blok-Williams award, which is given to a graduate school bound senior student for excellence in the study of the field of engineering. He worked as an undergraduate researcher at Hope for two summers in the areas of advanced materials (metal organic frameworks) and in designing lab experiments using a prototype Raman Laser for undergraduate education. He also was awarded a nationally competitive SCI Scholar engineering internship with Trinseo LLC in Midland, MI. Alex will be attending the University of Colorado Boulder to pursue a PhD in Chemical Engineering. He plans to perform research in the area of polymers.

Paul Baeverstad Award

The selection of the Paul Baeverstad Award recipient is based on a vote of the senior class of engineering students. It is given in recognition of a student who is valued as a superior engineer, classmate, and friend. This year’s winner was Kelly Peregrine. Kelly was a member of the Hope women’s cross country and track teams, including serving as captain of the cross country team. She performed summer research at Hope on the breakdown of running shoes over time, and on a separate project she worked on developing noninvasive treatments for phantom limb pain. Kelly will spend the next year as an intern at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Neuromuscular Biomechanics Lab.

Freshman Engineering Prize
Outdoors Headshot of Freshman Engineering Award RecipientJenna Core
Jenna Core ’23

The Freshman Engineering Prize is given to recognize the achievement of the best first-year students in Engineering. These students have already shown a strong ability to understand and express engineering concepts. The two students to receive the award this year were Jenna Core and Grace VanDellen. Jenna and Grace are both Hope athletes. Jenna is a member of the women’s volleyball team and is considering the mechanical, environmental or civil areas for her engineering concentration. and Grace is a member of the women’s golf team and is planning to pursue the biomedical-biomechanical concentration. When asked about what she enjoyed about Hope, Jenna said, “my favorite thing about Hope this year was definitely the people! I have gotten to know so many new people and made some amazing friends. The professors, coaches, staff, and classmates have been so welcoming, friendly, and genuine. Hope definitely wouldn’t be the same without the people and the environment that they create.”

Headshot of freshman award winner Grace VanDellen
Grace VanDellen ’23

Grace’s response was, “my favorite thing about being at Hope this year was getting to go to all of the athletic events. I am a part of the women’s golf team and that gave me some great friends and an amazing coach. While that was great I also loved attending different games with my friends. I loved watching basketball (one of my favorites), volleyball, and football. I went to my first hockey game ever and loved every minute of it! It is such a fast paced sport and I enjoyed cheering on the team with all of the other students in the stands. I always looked forward to Friday nights and getting to go watch a hockey game with my friends! It was a blast!”

The Engineering Department offers heartfelt congratulations to all of this year’s award winners!

Alumni Highlight: Prototype Engineer Brock Benson ’16

Headshot of Brock Benson

Brock Benson ’16 graduated from Hope College with a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering with a concentration in mechanical engineering. He started at Gentex Corporation in Zeeland, MI during the summer of 2016 as a Production Support Engineer working on the Full Display Mirror production line. He then became a Production Process Technician in the Microelectronics Assembly area in late 2016 where he remained until he became a Prototype Engineer in the fall of 2018.

As a prototype engineer, Brock works in the final assembly and electronic assembly production areas. He interacts with production engineers on continuous improvement and mechanical engineers on design projects. He designs fixtures, maintains equipment, and manages resources so that customer orders are filled in a controlled manner. He has contributed to Gentex’s Smart Lighting and Full-Display Mirror applications. The following are excerpts from a recent correspondence with Brock.

What do you find most exciting or interesting about the work that you do? 

The most interesting aspect of my position is the range of projects I’m involved in. I get to work on new products for Gentex. I get to spend time designing, but I also get to be hands-on actually implementing my changes, as well as, interact with people from a variety of different backgrounds.

What are some activities you were involved with at Hope that helped shape you as a person?

My favorite memories from Hope all involved playing basketball in front of our screaming fans in a sold out Devos Fieldhouse. Being a part of a team is something that I really enjoy in the workplace as well, and I try to find other teams to be a part of in my everyday life – from actual sports teams to different project groups at work.

What aspect of your engineering education at Hope was most beneficial?

The career fairs were really helpful because they allowed me to talk with a lot of the local companies, work on my interviewing skills, and help me get over my nerves of doing interviews for the first time. I also enjoyed the collaborative environment we had with our classes, as it allowed me to create good relationships with my classmates.

Can you comment on the liberal arts aspect of Hope?

I feel the liberal arts aspect of Hope helped me become a more well-rounded person. I enjoy the sciences, but I also have benefited from the arts. I have been able to use those soft skills developed at Hope in the workplace.

What advice would you give to current students?

Make the most of your relationships while you are in school. I formed some of my best friendships through my engineering classes. In addition, those friends are great resources. I’ve received career advice from them and can bounce ideas off of them to help troubleshoot work problems.

Hope College Rocketry Group Hosts First Launch

Members of the Hope Association of Rocketry and Performance Aviation (HARPA) recently hosted their first launch event at Park Township Airport of Holland, MI. They tested medium to high power designs built by sophomore engineering student and launch director, David Hallock ’22, and aided by senior engineering student and range safety officer, Owen Donahoe ’20. HARPA is one of Hope College’s newest student organizations. It is open to all majors and is dedicated to cultivating student’s knowledge and experiences in the areas of rocketry and aeronautics through amateur rocketry. A running theme for HARPA is proving that one does not need to be a “rocket scientist” or engineer to find success (and fun) launching rockets or to experiment with rocket design.

Hope students smiling next to 5 foot rocket in blue and orange Hope colors
David Hallock ’22 and Owen Donahoe ’20 with the HOPE rocket.

On Saturday, October 19, over 100 spectators from Hope and the Holland area crowded outside of the launch pad radius. Eyes turned to the sky as the three launches of the day all successfully lifted off the pad for a combined total altitude of 7100ft.  Engines ranged from 1.35 pounds thrust to a 31.5 pound thrust, high power engine that lifted a 5 foot 1 inch tall HOPE rocket 3400ft into the clear sky at over 500 miles per hour (see launch sequence below). This feat, however, was undermined by a rogue southwesterly wind that carried the rocket into a thick forested area adjacent to the airport where it has yet to be found or recovered.

Despite the loss, the launch was an astounding success, and the members of HARPA are excited to make improvements for future launches in the spring.  Contact HARPA if you would like more information about how to get involved or would like to be on their mailing list.

Alumni Highlights: Mark Panaggio ’09

outdoor headshot of Mark Panaggio

Mark Panaggio ’09  graduated from Hope with a double major in engineering (electrical concentration) and mathematics. Upon graduation, he entered a Ph.D. program in Engineering Sciences and Applied Mathematics at Northwestern University. After completing his Ph.D., he spent two years teaching math to engineers as a Visiting Assistant Professor at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. He then returned to Michigan in the fall of 2016, when he started his current position at Hillsdale College. Mark teaches a variety of undergraduate mathematics courses, especially those that make up Hillsdale’s applied math major. His courses include topics like mathematical modeling, differential equations, scientific computing and algorithms. He also does research on mathematical models of complex systems and studies how the interactions between individual agents in a system can lead to emergent collective behaviors such as spontaneous synchronization, swarming, and pattern formation. These emergent phenomena are essential to the efficient operation of a variety of natural and engineered systems including power grids, GPS systems and biological networks in the heart and brain. The following are excerpts from a recent correspondence with Mark.

What do you find most exciting or interesting about the work that you do?

My favorite part of my job is the fact that I get to help students learn how to use their knowledge of math and science to describe real world systems and solve practical problems. I particularly enjoy working on research projects with students both inside and outside of the classroom.

What are some activities you were involved with at Hope that helped shape you as a person?

I had a blast as an undergraduate at Hope. When I wasn’t studying or working in the math lab, I played on the ultimate (Frisbee) team and played on every intramural sports team I could. I also spent three summers working with Dr. Veldman on a project that involved investigating the pressure waves generated by explosives. Being involved in research as an undergraduate was great preparation for graduate school, but more importantly it helped me to realize that I had a passion for research and to appreciate how the concepts I was learning about in class came together in a real-world setting. When I started at Hope, I did not have a clear sense of what I wanted to do when I graduated, but those hands-on experiences helped me figure out what I was really interested in: exploring the computational tools used in engineering and science. Ultimately, this convinced me to pursue graduate studies in applied mathematics and got me started on the path I am on today.

Can you comment on the liberal arts aspect of Hope?

In hindsight, a couple of things about my liberal arts education stand out: 1. Although the technical knowledge from math and science classes is certainly important, being able to write clearly and communicate effectively are just as vital. Although I may not always have enjoyed it at the time, the writing and presentations I did for my general liberal arts classes made me a better teacher and were great preparation for writing papers and giving talks about my research. 2. Developing and clarifying one’s life-view is an essential part of a liberal arts education. I would encourage students to dig deeper into their faith and to seek the truth. At Hope, I was challenged to wrestle with difficult questions about what life is all about, what I believed and why. I left Hope on a firmer foundation and with a clearer sense of purpose than when I arrived.

What advice would you give to current students?

Don’t forget that learning doesn’t stop when you leave the classroom. If you can, get involved in a research project, extracurricular activities, or work as a lab assistant or grader. Often you will find that the time you spend on those activities will be just as valuable as the time you spent in class. Also, get to know your professors outside of class as much as you can! They can be a great resource and there is much you can learn from them even after class is over.

How the Intro to Engineering Course led me to Lake Victoria, Kenya

For several years the Introduction to Engineering course (ENGS 100) has included a design project in order to familiarize students with the engineering design process.  Projects have ranged from a wheelchair lift system for a vehicle to an automated snack dispenser for a client with cerebral palsy. The 2018 class was tasked with designing an incubator system for the college’s Engineers Without Borders student chapter (EWB-Hope).  Key features from several designs were integrated together in the months following the course and a prototype was taken to Kenya in Spring 2019 for in-field testing. Chris Rexroth ‘22 (biomedical engineering student and current Project Lead of EWB-Hope) was a student who participated in this project from start to finish and shares his experience in this blog.  

In late August 2018, I walked into VanderWerf Hall for my first class at Hope College—Introduction to Engineering. For quite some time, I had been questioning what I wanted to study and I was unsure if the engineering major would be the right fit for me. By the end of the school year, however, I was elected to lead an Engineers Without Borders well installation project in a rural village in Kenya, and I was more sure of my major than ever. Here is my story.

I was first introduced to EWB-Hope through the EDGE Design Project in Intro to Engineering. In Hope College’s EDGE program, students, who are primarily freshmen, are introduced to a client with a design challenge and are tasked with deriving a viable solution. Last fall, EWB-Hope was the client and presented a need for a robust incubator that could be used to test for bacteria (total and E. coli coliforms) in water samples for their project in Kenya.  The design constraints were that it had to be relatively small in order to be easily transported to Kenya, it had to have low power consumption and run on batteries only, and it had to be easy to use. Throughout the first semester, 30 groups of three to four students collaborated with the client and multiple professors to develop unique designs.

Over the course of the semester, I also began attending EWB-Hope club meetings and getting involved in club fundraisers. In November 2018, I was selected to travel to Kenya to work on EWB-Hope’s ongoing project in Bondo, a rural village near Lake Victoria that lacks access to clean water. I joined the travel team, consisting of five students and two mentors, as the Water Quality Testing Lead; my main role on the trip was to test the water from wells previously installed by EWB-Hope for various contaminants. This also gave me the opportunity to continue working on the incubator after the Intro to Engineering course had ended.

In January 2019, I began working more closely with the Intro to Engineering instructor, Professor John Krupczak, to finalize an incubator design before the trip to Kenya in March.  We had 30 unique designs laid out in front of us, each meeting the design specifications in different ways. We sifted through all of the incubator prototypes and their accompanying Design Portfolios in search of interesting features that could contribute to the final design. With a new prototype pieced together, the next step was to test its battery life, as coliform tests require incubation for a minimum of 24 hours. For the test, we used a Raspberry Pi microcomputer and temperature sensor to periodically sample the internal temperature of the incubator.  If the temperature was below a threshold then the Raspberry Pi would turn on a heating element until the temperature rose above a secondary threshold. This cycle continued for a 24 hour period. We had several successful trials which verified that we had developed a reliable incubator, capable of balancing mobility, battery life, and user-friendliness. 

During spring break I traveled with the EWB-Hope team to Kenya. The incubator made the journey across the Atlantic in pieces, scattered throughout the luggage of our group. We spent the first few days of our trip meeting with the local community members, surveying the wells, and collecting water samples. On day 3 of 6 in the community, we set up the incubator on the undercarriage of a crooked table in our lodging called a “simba”, which is a simple home constructed of mud. Water samples from the two EWB-Hope wells were set up in the incubator and both produced negative results, indicating that there were no coliforms in the water. Additionally, eleven other tests, such as turbidity and nitrate detection, were executed to show that the well water met World Health Organization standards. This EDGE design project was highly beneficial to EWB-Hope as there had not been a method in the past to reliably test for the presence of coliforms in the field, arguably the most important water safety criteria. 

On one of our last nights in-country, our travel team took a long bus ride, and perhaps the bumpiest 3 hours of my life, to the coast of Lake Victoria. Before sunset, we hiked to a cliff on the furthest point of the peninsula. With feet hanging over a twenty-meter drop, I had the chance to reflect on just how far I was from home – a distance of 8,000 miles, surrounded by six friends who were strangers just months before, and engulfed in an incredible experience of engineering and philanthropy. 

EWB-Hope travel team at Lake Victoria in Kenya

Looking back at it all, the EDGE Design Project provided a unique learning experience with the opportunity to work in small groups, collaborate with a client, and follow the design process step-by-step. Most importantly, it helped me discover a new passion—a passion that transcends continents and cultural differences. The work on the wells is involved and rewarding for the soul, but more importantly, the Bondo Water Project serves as an example of how the Hope community can come together to empower underserved communities across the world. 

The incubator will continue to be used this school year when we return to Bondo to drill a new well in Spring 2020. If you are interested in learning more about EWB-Hope, please email or visit our website.

Engineers Without Borders Returns to Kenya

After traveling over 7,900 miles on March 15th, a group of students and mentors walked out into the warm night air, standing just outside the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, Kenya. The group was Engineers Without Borders from Hope College (EWB-Hope). The team of 5 students, Chris Rexroth, Annie Dankovich, Matthew Dickerson, Krista Nelson, and myself, Graham Gould, accompanied by mentors Adam Peckens and Dale Nowicki, were headed to Bondo, Kenya to monitor and assess the water systems that were installed in the community. In 2017, EWB-Hope worked with the community of approximately 500 people to install two wells and a rainwater catchment system. Prior to Hope EWB-Hope’s involvement, there had been no clean water source within the community boundaries.

EWB-Hope members inspecting components of previously installed rainwater catchment system

This year’s trip focused on monitoring and assessing to ensure the upkeep of the current systems, as well as determining the feasibility of installing another well. The first order of business was the opening meeting, during which the overall trip goals and happenings in the past year were discussed. The next few days were spent inspecting the water systems by checking if all of the components still worked properly and operated smoothly.

Hope student, Graham Gould, and interpreter, Paul O’lango, conducting a well head survey

Water quality testing was also completed to ensure the water being provided was actually clean and free of contaminants, such as fecal coliforms. One morning during well hours, (wells are only open for a certain period of time) teams were assigned to each well to conduct surveys of the community members using the wells. The goal of the surveys was to understand water accessibility and water usage. The chapter could finally collect data and see firsthand the changes in the community due to the installed systems.

Community members collecting water from a well installed by EWB-Hope

Personally, it was humbling to see a young woman, the same age as me, walk for half an hour one way carrying 3 yellow 20 liter bins to fill for her family’s daily water needs. She would then have to make several trips back and forth to bring all the water home, as one 20 liter can of water was heavy enough for one trip. This made me really consider the ease of access to water that we have in the U.S., which so many of us take for granted, and put into perspective how valuable of a resource this is.

In-country hydrogeologist conducting a resistivity survey

EWB-Hope is also looking at the possibility of installing a third well in the community, in a region that still lacks access to water, termed Bondo C. To properly assess the need, the team mapped potential locations using a GPS and also worked with an in-country hydrogeologist who conducted hydrogeological surveys. These surveys use resistivity to map the ground layers straight down from one point. They can be thought of as a sonar system, as two metal probes connected to a machine send a current from one to the other. The day before the hydrogeologist came, community members showed the team around the Bondo C region to locate possible sites. That evening the team looked at five potential locations and narrowed it down to three based on location relative to other wells and higher population density areas, elevation from sea level, and ease of access for drilling. The data from the surveys at these three locations is now being analyzed by students back at Hope College.

Team members Annie, Krista, Chris, Matthew, Graham, and Dale with children from the community.

Going on this trip made me realize just how much we take clean water for granted. In the U.S., it is not a big deal to leave the faucet on while doing something else, which wastes so much water. In Bondo, every drop has to be earned by going to wherever clean water can be found, sometimes miles away. While driving through the outer regions of Kenya, we saw people cleaning their clothes, bathing, and gathering water from a cloudy, brown river. There was no sparkly bottom to this river, making us realize just how lucky we really are. Clean water is still very much a valuable resource.

From an engineering standpoint, the trip impacted me as I saw the results of the chapter’s previous and continued hard work in Kenya. Through this experience, I was able to observe firsthand what is only in writing back home and gain a clearer perspective of the situation. To future students considering a trip like this, I would say go! Opportunities like this truly change your view on life.

Author Graham Gould is a freshman engineering student at Hope College.  He became involved in EWB during his first semester at college.

Alumni Highlight: Daniel Langholz ’14

Standard profile/headshot of Daniel Langholz smilingDaniel Langholz ’14 graduated from Hope College with a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering with a concentration in mechanical engineering. After graduation, he attended the University of Michigan where he received his Masters in Aerospace Engineering. Then in early 2016, he joined Lockheed Martin Space Systems where he is currently a Guidance, Navigation, and Controls Engineer in Sunnyvale, CA. While at Lockheed, Daniel has enjoyed working on Project Orion, NASA’s future exploration vehicle for deep space missions. His team worked on the attitude control motor for the launch abort system. He was involved in the design of the control system through preliminary and critical design review and formulation of a testing and verification plan, which involved testing of the solid rocket motor, hardware integration with NASA, and qualification testing (vacuum, thermal, vibrations, etc). The following are excerpts from a recent correspondence with Daniel.

What do you find most exciting or interesting about the work that you do?

Being involved in a rocket test fire is certainly the most exciting thing I have participated in. What is most interesting to me, however, is the design of the control system. Taking a diverse set of requirements and ideas, then actually designing and building a system that goes all the way from a sketch on a whiteboard to a physical working device will always be incredibly gratifying to me.

Image from a previous pad abort test for the Orion program. The exhaust at the top is the attitude control motor, the jets in the middle are from the abort motor, and at the bottom is the Orion capsule itself. Photo courtesy Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems.

What are some activities you were involved with at Hope that helped shape you as a person?

Being involved with music at Hope was definitely essential to my time there as it provided a release valve from all of the engineering work—it was great to be able to do something different. However, my involvement in Engineers Without Borders was probably one of the most influential activities I participated in. That club, more than anything else, really showed me how uplifting engineering can be. A well-designed water distribution system can drastically decrease disease, a road can transform a region, or a cell phone tower can help lift a town out of poverty. No matter where you go, engineers are essential.

What aspect of your engineering education was most helpful?

Without a doubt, late night homework sessions in the CAD/computer lab. By that time, people would generally be finished with the easy problems and a lot of the work was a group effort. In addition to just being more fun than working by yourself, those group efforts were so much more like actually working. The problems I work on with my team now are hard—otherwise somebody else would have done it already. Learning how to figure out those hard and seemingly impossible problems in a group was one of the best preparations I could have had.

Can you comment on the liberal arts aspect of Hope?

I quickly figured out in internships and my current job that the hardest part of engineering really isn’t the straight engineering. It’s the communication, taking the need and figuring out a set of requirements that can be solved with engineering techniques, organizing those ideas into an actual design, and giving clear feedback on those ideas. Being able to learn in a liberal arts environment helped with those essential parts of engineering that aren’t math and science.

What advice would you give to current students?

Get involved! Most people need to do something outside of engineering—otherwise you go a bit insane. For your career and experience, doing something engineering related that’s not class is also essential. A lot of hiring managers place much more importance in a committed EWB or FSAE experience than your GPA. Working as an engineering intern is also tremendously important. I had two internships in very different engineering fields, and decided I wasn’t interested in those fields in the future. But it gave me great experience, and more importantly, helped me figure out what to aim towards instead. Hope might not have the sheer number of on-campus opportunities as a big school, but it’s so much easier to get involved in the opportunities it does have and tailor them towards your individual interests. And if you’re looking for something different and don’t know what to do, ask a professor. You’ll never have as good of an opportunity to branch out as you will now, and professors at Hope are always willing to help.

Aerospace Aspirations

A typical semester for Hope College engineering student Samuel Bachwich (‘21) includes a full load of challenging courses across campus and long hours working on the Formula SAE team. During the fall 2018 semester he added one more activity to his schedule: Sam had the privilege of being a member of NASA’s inaugural L’SPACE Academy. Sam is passionate about spaceflight and space exploration, so when he heard about the program from Hope professor, Courtney Peckens, he applied right away and was accepted about a week later.

Sam Bachwich working on CAD models for a Mars lander.

As an increasing number of NASA employees retire, L’SPACE Academy is an attempt by NASA to prepare students for careers in the space industry. The academy is officially linked to NASA’s LUCY mission to the Trojan asteroids near Jupiter (projected to launch in 2021), and is two semesters in length, with the first semester being Level 1 of the program and the second semester being Level 2. Acceptance into Level 2 is partly contingent on each individual’s performance in the Level 1 group project, as well as, each group’s performance as a whole. Although it is not a class worth any college credit, the L’SPACE Academy does award a certificate to those that satisfactorily complete the program. The real benefit, though, is the extraordinary experience of learning from NASA engineers and the opportunity to work on a NASA directed project.

During Level 1 this past fall, all participants used video chat software to meet one night a week throughout the semester to view a 90-minute presentation given by NASA. Each week featured a different speaker, including, leading engineers and managers from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and NASA’s Mars Exploration Program. Participants (about 300 overall) were grouped into teams of nine students based on their time zone and fields of study and given a project for the duration of the semester. Last semester’s project was to write a Preliminary Design Review (PDR) document for a hypothetical mission to Mars. All science-affiliated majors in the group were tasked with determining a landing site for a Mars lander, a list of researchable science questions, and a short list of instruments that could be attached to the lander to investigate the generated questions. The engineering-affiliated students in the group were tasked with designing the lander and its descent system (meant to lower the lander from a height of 9 meters above ground to the surface). The lander came with a set of constraints: it could not have more than half a kilogram of mass, it could not cost more than $20, and it had to fit inside a cube measuring 30 cm to a side.

The group project provided a wealth of experience. Sam contributed to designs for his team’s lander concept and was involved in drafting those designs in SolidWorks (making great use of his FSAE and CAD class experiences!). He was also involved in constructing the bill of materials for the lander, and contributed to the Preliminary Design Report. Overall, Sam found the L’SPACE Academy to be an incredible opportunity. He was exposed to new concepts and technologies, like NASA’s mission review process, presentations on NASA’s Mars Sample Return mission, and access to NASA’s JMARS software (the mapping software used for the Martian surface).  He reported that the group project was an invaluable experience, “that taught me a lot about communication, initiative, and many more general career skills.” While he waits to hear if he will be accepted into Level 2, Sam is actively encouraging others interested in aerospace to consider applying for upcoming Level 1 sessions. Regardless of the outcome, Sam has gained clear confirmation that engineering for space applications is a career path and calling he wants to energetically pursue.

Current students interested in learning more about the L’SPACE Academy can access the website here or see a sample presentation about the Mars Sample Return mission here.

Hope’s Formula SAE Team Competes in National Autocross Event

Hope student, Morgan Dalman ('19) shows off the Hope FSAE 2018 race car at the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) Solo Nationals competition
Morgan Dalman (’19) and Hope’s 2018 FSAE car at the SCCA Solo National competition.

Members of Hope College’s formula SAE team recently returned to Lincoln Airpark in Nebraska,  which was the site of their 11th place finish in the June, 2018 FSAE competition. This time they were in Lincoln to participate in the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) Solo Nationals competition. The SCCA competition attracted nearly 1,400 drivers this year, making it one of the largest racing events in the world. The event attracts primarily amateur drivers, though a few professionals also race.  The competition took place on two autocross courses, which are racetracks made of cones. The drivers compete in their car class for the quickest combined time of the two courses without drawing time penalties for hitting cones.

Students Morgan Dalman (‘19), Jarret Matson (‘19), Jack Heideman (‘20), Theo Roffey (‘21) and the team advisor Carl Heideman were the team’s representatives. After walking the track about 10 times, the races started. The course walk is a major part of autocrossing because the drivers are not allowed to test the course in a car prior to the race.  Therefore, being able to dictate speed and line is an important skill. The SCCA tracks were setup to run much faster than a typical FSAE competition, which allowed the team to test their vehicle closer to its upper performance limits.

Hope student, YYYY YYY ('XX), seated in the Hope FSAE car in full race gear prepared to begin an autocross course.
Morgan Dalman (’19) prepares to complete one of the two autocross courses.

The team’s drivers, Morgan, Jarrett, and Jack put down very respectable times on both courses. On the first course many drivers in cars similar to the Hope car finishes in 63-65seconds, while Hope’s drivers clocked in at 63 second or better. More importantly, the competition provided a lot of new information and experience necessary for enhancing the car’s performance. For example, the team learned from the driver of an A-mod style racecar that changing tire pressures from 10 psi in front and 8 psi in rear to 15 psi in front and 13 psi in the rear would provide much more grip on concrete surfaces compared to the grip on asphalt surfaces. The team was also able to meet many people who were formerly or are currently involved in FSAE, including, recent graduates, knowledgeable advisers of current teams, and representatives from companies that support other teams. Each contact provided helpful insight on the car and team dynamics. Overall, the team learned a great amount at Solo Nationals and hope to return there next year and many more years to come.