The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics recently launched its South Carolina chapter at the University of South Carolina’s McNAIR Center. SC Aerospace recently interviewed Rachael Rudd (third from right), a third-year Mechanical Engineering student at the University of South Carolina and committee chair and project team leader for American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics program at USC.
1Q. Tell us a little about AAIA and the South Carolina Chapter?
1A. AIAA is a national organization and the chapter at USC is the only chapter in South Carolina. The organization is a technical society dedicated to the global aerospace profession. AIAA was founded in 1963 and has more than 30,000 individual members from 88 countries. Corporations are also members. AIAA hosts events, technical conferences and publishes materials in support of aerospace and strongly supports students to enter careers in the aerospace field.
2Q. Tell us about the students involved at USC?
2A. We have about twenty active members of the chapter. Most come from engineering disciplines including mechanical, electrical and chemical.
3Q. How many of the active students are women?
3A. Four of our active members are women; all of which have held leadership positions in the chapter.
4Q. What types of activities has the chapter been engaged with?
4A. This chapter is very interested in community involvement and supporting STEM initiatives. As a group, we toured Boeing and participated in the DreamLearner program. We also have toured the Columbia Metro Airport and visited with some of the airplane home builders at Hamilton Owens airport in Columbia. The chapter hopes to become more involved with our community the longer our chapter exists.
5Q. Who and what type of faculty involvement does the group have from USC?
5A. Dr. Michel van Tooren is our faculty advisor and has been very engaged with the group. We have regular meetings to touch base on projects and procure advice and inspiration when needed. The group is very humbled to have the opportunity to utilize the McNair Center for Aerospace Innovation and Research and work closely with Dr. van Tooren and his graduate students to gain hands on experience in manufacturing, research, team building and much more.
6Q. Did you come into USC with an interest in aerospace or did it ignite when you were at USC?
6A. My personal interest did not ignite until my second year at USC when I took a statics course taught by Ramy Harik-faculty of USC and staff at the McNair Center for Aerospace Innovation and Research. I had never given too much thought to aeronautics or astronautics besides what I saw in the movies but when Ramy invited a group from his class to tour the McNair center a new door opened to me. I was able to see the potential the McNair Center offered to willing participates and decided to take advantage of the opportunities presented to me. I began my undergraduate research soon after that and was exposed to this forming chapter of AIAA. Since beginning my research and joining the club, I have realized that aerospace innovation is the base work for a better tomorrow. I have committed myself to do everything in my power to help shape the 21st century with sustainability and longevity in mind.
7Q. Would any of the students be interested in an undergraduate aerospace engineering degree if USC offered it?
7A. Several members of our group will pursue minors or advanced degrees in aerospace engineering and I think it would be very beneficial if USC offered an undergraduate four year aerospace engineering degree so that undergraduate students may be in a more competitive position upon graduation.
8Q. Are any members currently pilots or interested in becoming a pilot?
8A. One of our graduating Master’s students has his pilot’s license. Many of us aspire to become pilots but it is a very expensive learning process.
9Q. What challenges does the Chapter face?
9A. Raising funding for travel, event participation and manufacturing projectsis always a challenge. We are also a budding organization, which makes recruiting new members challenging. There are many organizations and clubs competing for students with limited time but we are confident that as the club progresses more students will be willing to commit to our chapter because they see that being a part of AIAA could change their lives.
10Q. How can our readers help support the AIAA chapter here in South Carolina?
10A. Financial contributions would be greatly appreciated. Funds allow us to enter competitions, buy materials and supplies and continue pursuing our community involvement. We would love to participate in company/lab/shop tours or have speakers come and speak with our chapter about anything aerospace related. We encourage aerospace supporters to connect to our page on Facebook, USC AIAA, to stay up to date with the chapter.
Interested in helping the University of South Carolina chapter of AIAA? Connect with the program committee chair Rachael Rudd (firstname.lastname@example.org) or the branch graduate advisor Wout de Backer (email@example.com).