Educational Outreach

Encouraging STEM Interest

We don’t just build rockets; we want to use our love for engineering to give back to the community. From elementary school bottle rocket launches and middle school lessons on Newton’s Laws in spaceflight, to workshops at the Adventure Science Center and guest lectures about the final frontier, we constantly strive to engage the broader community with a love for STEM. We believe that by exemplifying our passion for the work we do, we can help influence this generation’s students to become next generation’s NASA scientists and engineers.

“Stabilizing the rocket payload section to take pictures of targets as the rocket is in rapid ascent at 400 mph, and naturally rolling about its axis, is a very complicated challenge that the team has solved," said Professor Amrutur Anilkumar, director of the VADL and team adviser. “Sectional roll control can come in handy in spacecraft design for targeting, mating and servicing of spacecraft in orbit.”

Using History to Motivate the Next Generation of Aerospace Engineers and Scientists

Wright Brothers Wind Tunnel Replica in Demonstration

We feel that the Wright Brothers’ wind tunnel is a perfect tool to teach students both fundamental physical principles and the basics of the scientific method. In addition, we feel we can use the historical wind tunnel to inspire young endeavoring scientists to pursue science and engineering even when it may seem challenging or impossible, as was the case for the Wright Brothers’ from the outset. In telling the story of the Wright Brothers’, two high school dropouts that dedicated themselves to accomplishing the impossible dream of flight, we can instill a sense of persistence and ingenuity in the students to dare to dream big. With the wind tunnel, the students can get a sense of what engineering experimentation is like and see mathematics and scientific principles come to life and manifest themselves in designs that solve real world problems.

Engineering into Space at Vanderbilt University

Chief Diversity Officer Dr. George Hill discussing the need for diversity in STEM

The Vanderbilt Aerospace Design Lab in coordination with the Vanderbilt School of Engineering, the Engineering Ambassadors at Vanderbilt, and Vanderbilt’s Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion put on an event titled Engineering into Space. The event was to promote STEM interests by exposing students to engineering and its various disciplines. The theme of the day was space exploration with an overarching focus on sending a humans to Mars. With VADL as event leads, students learned about VADL’s exciting projects, rocket launches, and history, with a focus on excitement in STEM. Between the opening and closing sessions, numerous engineering fields were offered as disciplines for the students to explore in interactive hands-on hour-long sessions. Each field tailored activities to demonstrate that particular engineering discipline’s possible contribution to exploring Mars. The mechanical engineering session was lead by VADL team members and consisted of a presentation on aerodynamic forces and the history of wind tunnels followed by an experiment demonstration on Vanderbilt’s 20 foot long wind tunnel. The students all came from very diverse backgrounds. 44% of the students were African American, 19% Caucasian, 17% mixed, 7% Hispanic, and 7% Egyptian/Middle Eastern. The students represented 40 different nationalities in total.