5...4...3...2...1...liftoff Aerospace Club
Published: Friday, October 26, 2012
Updated: Friday, October 26, 2012 01:10
Oregon State University is well-known for its engineering and science curriculum. However, aviation and aerospace engineering prospects may have difficulty finding a major up their alley.
Two students who were in this situation recently created something for students interested in aerospace — the OSU Aerospace Club, or more specifically, Oregon State University’s branch of the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA).
Mechanical engineering students Brandon Thoennes and Michael Roos found a void in OSU when it came to a program related to aerospace engineering.
“I wanted to be an aerospace engineering major,” said Roos, vice president of OSU’s AIAA branch. “OSU didn’t have it, so I ended up in mechanical engineering.”
Among the activities that OSU’s AIAA branch is planning include visiting aerospace manufacturing sites, bringing guest speakers to OSU and participating in plane and rocket building competitions, along the lines of the Society of Automotive Engineers’ Formula SAE club does.
“Similar to the Formula SAE club, we want to build remote controlled aircraft to compete with other universities,” said Thoennes, president of OSU’s AIAA branch. “We want to model the OSU Formula SAE club’s success in the competitions.”
OSU’s AIAA branch is open to students of all majors. However, all members need to become AIAA members.
“Because we are an AIAA club, we ask that our members be AIAA members,” Roos said.
The history of OSU’s AIAA branch is quite compelling. Roos and Thoennes conceived the idea in November 2011 when they were having difficulty finding curriculum to fulfill their interest in aerospace engineering. It was not until almost a year later, August 2012, that the club became an official branch of the AIAA.
“It has been very rewarding and quite the ride,” Roos said. “We’ve gotten close to lots of faculty members.”
Roos and Thoennes had to go through a long process to take the club from just an idea to where it is today.
Roos and Thoennes both strongly credited Oregon State mechanical engineering faculty for helping them achieve the goal of creating the AIAA chapter at OSU.
“We pitched the club idea to Dr. Nancy Squires, a mechanical engineering professor,” Thoennes said. “She was very excited. There was nothing like AIAA at OSU for aerospace.”
The club grew very quickly.
“We got 20 people very quickly by word of mouth,” said Roos.
The club’s advisors are currently Squires and Roberto Albertani, both mechanical engineering professors.
Perhaps the most difficult thing for Roos and Thoennes was finding a space on campus to house the aerospace club.
“You need space to design and build rockets,” Thoennes said. “Its hard to find room on campus.”
Roos and Thoennes hit the jackpot when they noticed a very small detail about one room in Covell Hall. All of the room numbers on the third floor start with a two, except for one, room 301.
“We found an old room in Covell Hall, and thought we could clean it up and use it.” Thoennes said.
This room on the third floor of Covell Hall went unnoticed for decades by senior faculty members.
“Dr. Squires, and even Rob Stone, the interim department head, didn’t know about this space.” Thoennes said.
Covell 301, future home of OSU’s AIAA branch lab, is on the rooftop level of Covell Hall. For years, it was simply used for storage as well as a way to access the roof. After finding the room, Thoennes and Roos found it had been left untouched since the early 1990s, containing materials from as long ago as the early 1900s.
Upon researching the history of Covell Hall, which was built in 1928, they discovered that Covell 301 was originally an astronomy lab.
“We looked into it, found old building schematics and found the room to be an [astronomy] lab.” Thoennes said.
When they first discovered Covell 301, Thoennes and Roos found a room with several construction issues that was also full to the rafters with electronics and other old things.
“We found a lot of stored stuff dating from the early 1900s all the way up to the late 1980s.” Roos said. “We even found a battery trickle charger from 1912.”
Roos and Thoennes spent the past summer clearing out the room as well as renovating it.
“The key was that the room had to meet the fire code.” Thoennes said. “We had to get the Corvallis Fire Marshall to inspect the building.”
Since finding the room, Roos and Thoennes have had to do several repairs, some of which included spackling and repainting.
“There were big tears and water damage to the walls.” Thoennes said.
Currently, no equipment has been set up to build rockets.
“We will be able to build aircraft and rockets in the lab.” Thoennes said.
Both Roos and Thoennes have a very strong personal passion for the future of this club as well as for the subject of aerospace.
“I built model rockets as a kid, which is where my passion for aerospace started,” Roos said.
Thoennes added that, “I’d like to come back to OSU someday and see a thriving AIAA student branch and an aerospace major,”
Vinay Ramakrishnan, news reporter