It is no secret that each day at AME we salute the work of our students, staff and faculty members past and present. On October 13, 2016, we were fortunate enough to celebrate the work of our own alumna and former College of Engineering Assistant Dean & Instructor Donna Shirley, who was presented with the Annie Oakley Society Award at the society’s sixth annual luncheon and award ceremony. Notably in attendance were Governor Mary Fallin of Oklahoma, Gallogly College of Engineering Dean Tom Landers and other GCoE leadership, AME Professor David Miller and members of the Sooner Rover Team. The Annie Oakley Society is comprised of women leaders and philanthropists who, like Annie Oakley, play significant roles in shaping our communities and creating new horizons.[1] Also recognized at the award ceremony was Jo Rowan, receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award for her contributions in the field of dance and creative arts.

Meet Donna

At age 17, Donna Shirley earned her pilot’s license, won the Miss Wynnewood, OK crown, and competed in the Miss Oklahoma pageant. Following high school, she enrolled at the University of Oklahoma, obtaining a technical writing degree in 1962 and a bachelor’s degree from AME in 1965. She went on to enjoy a more than 30-year career at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and retired in 1998 as the Manager of the Mars Exploration Program. During her time at NASA, Ms. Shirley lead the team that built and successfully landed the Mars rover “Sojourner” in 1997. Ms. Shirley remarked that the was the lone female of 2000+ person group at JPL at that time. She then became assistant dean of the College of Engineering at OU, where in the past she was told that girls could never be engineers – she has fought successfully to help transform that attitude. After a brief introduction, the conversation with Ms. Shirley spearheaded into a discussion of the role and importance of women in engineering.


It’s “easier” now…

Ms. Shirley gave clear and concise advice to all in attendance regarding the state of affairs for women in highly scientific fields like Aerospace & Mechanical Engineering. She said, “It’s easier [being a female in engineering] now but remember, you must be good [at whatever you’re doing].” She went on to explain that in the competitive hiring and retention environment of engineering, we must all strive to be the best at what we do. “Learning is ultimately important and not relying solely on grades”, she explained. Donna casually outlined one story she thought was important to note in which a disagreement developed between her and a male colleague. She handled the situation by relying only on the technical work she had done – outshining the negative attention only by being better. This an attitude she hopes all engineers (not only women) will adopt.


We at the School of Aerospace & Mechanical Engineering congratulate Donna Shirley on her award and applaud her for the way she continues to advocate for women in engineering. To celebrate her efforts, AME pledges to strive to always be an environment conducive to the success of everyone we interact with. Please join us as we recognize her hard work.


  • By: Jawanza Bassue – MS Aerospace Engineering Candidate 2017




Kevin R. Bagnall visited AME Tuesday to discuss his research on gallium nitride (GaN)-based semiconductor devices. Currently, most electronics use semiconductor devices based on silicon, which cannot meet the demands of many high-performance applications due to its intrinsic material limitations. The goal of his research is to understand and characterize the performance and reliability of GaN-based devices.

According to Bagnall, this work has provided exciting new insights into the fundamental physics of self-heating in this revolutionary technology and has opened new avenues to simultaneously probe thermal, mechanical, and electrical behavior in these devices as never before.

The application of this technology could be used in utility, transportation, and consumer products, such as electric cars or laptops. Although GaN allows for reduction in the size of electronic components, the high dissipated power densities in these devices leads to elevated channel temperatures and degraded lifetime and performance. Using micro-Raman spectroscopy, Bagnall measures the temperature, stress, and electric field distributions to help understand the physics of failure.

“We are very pleased to host Kevin’s visit to the University of Oklahoma. He has been carrying out cutting-edge research at MIT, advancing the science and technology of advanced materials used in semiconductor industry,” said AME Director Cengiz Altan. “It is truly rewarding to see our alumni be so successful and perform world-class research in a highly collaborative environment.”

Kevin Bagnall is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) working under the supervision of Professor Evelyn N. Wang. Kevin is an alumnus of the Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering at OU, having earned a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering in May 2009. He is the recipient of the Rohsenow Graduate Fellowship at MIT and the National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate (NDSEG) Fellowship sponsored by the Department of Defense and Air Force Office of Scientific Research. For the past five years, he has been working on GaN transistor research in a highly collaborative research center at MIT, which includes the involvement of multiple departments and several industrial partners.

“I really appreciate the undergraduate education I received from AME at OU. It has enabled me to pursue graduate research and a career in academia,” said Bagnall. “I will always be proud to be part of the scholarly, warm and caring AME family.”

Sooner Racing Team (SRT) recently attended Formula SAE® Lincoln. The competition took place in Lincoln, Nebraska hosting 80 teams. Out of those 80 teams, SRT finished 18th overall. In addition to their overall finish, they placed 16th in endurance and received 3rd place in fuel efficiency. With their 3rd place finish, SRT brought home a trophy for the first time in several years!


Formula SAE® is a student design competition organized by the Society of Automotive Engineers. The concept behind Formula SAE® is that a fictional manufacturing company has contracted a design team to develop a small Formula-style race car. The prototype race car is to be evaluated for its potential as a production item. The target marketing group for the race car is the non-professional weekend autocross racer. Each student team designs, builds and tests a prototype based on a series of rules whose purpose is both to ensure onsite event operations and promote problem solving.

Congratulations, Sooner Racing Team! We are proud of your hard work and performance!

Sooner Rover Team recently took home the gold at the 6th Annual RASC-AL Robo-Ops Challenge sponsored by NASA. Not only did the Sooner Rover Team win the national competition, they set records, beating the standing rock yard record by over 200%. The team finished with a final score of 132. The second place team trailed behind with a score of 48.

The Robo-Ops Challenge took place at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. The selected student teams had to design life-sized rovers that could move and climb through various terrain, collect rock samples and store them, and navigate through the rock yard all while being controlled remotely from each team’s home university with real-time video feeds from the rovers’ cameras. Teams had one hour to collect and secure the rock samples along with bonus challenges. In addition to the rock yard challenge, teams also had to present a technical paper, a poster and carry out a public outreach program.

Among the eight teams at the competition, Sooner Rover Team stood out from the beginning with their unique design. Rovie McRoverface (the rover’s given name) was modeled after a 1980’s Russian lunar rover featuring a spine, six cone-shaped wheels and a robotic arm. This allowed the rover to bend and travel through various terrain at the competition more easily. Clearly, the unique design paid off.

Rovie McRoverface collected all 26 rock samples and completed all four bonus challenges flawlessly. The team’s score was recorded on the scoreboard by NASA followed with a “WOW.” But, seriously.

“I felt a little like I was dreaming that the rover was performing so well,” said Dane Schoelen, Sooner Rover Team Project Lead. “When mission control successfully completed the contingencies task through amazing teamwork and improvisation, I felt like there was no way I wasn’t dreaming. It is satisfying that after all of the blood, sweat, and tears that went into creating our rover, we were able to put on an outstanding performance.”

The team is made up of all Gallogly College of Engineering students and advised by AME Professor David Miller, Ph.D. The team members at mission control were Bill Doyle, Brent Wolf, Alex Borgerding, Jacob Jordan, Oskar Paredes, Ashley Findley, Janella Clary, Matthew Solcher and Aaron Condreay, and the members who went to competition were Nathan Justus, Dane Schoelen and Kevin Cotrone.


The team won first place, broke and set records and brought home a $6,000 prize that they hope will go towards next year’s rover. It is safe to say the team will be set with experienced members as Nathan Justus was the only senior. He will start his career at NASA in Houston as an operations engineer at mission control for the International Space Station.

“I cannot emphasize enough how hard our team worked to make sure that we were prepared for that day. Our performance and the recognition we got from NASA, NIA, and the other teams made all of that work worth it,” said Nathan Justus, Sooner Rover Team Chief Engineer. “Of course, the project had merit of its own and the learning process was substantial, but whatever, it feels good to have DESTROYED and earned that with blood and mind power.”

Congratulations, Sooner Rover Team! We are so proud of your hard work and success!

On Thursday, May 5, 2016 the School of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering hosted its annual Senior Design Poster Fair in Devon Energy Hall and the ExxonMobil Lawrence G. Rawl Engineering Practice Facility. A total of 33 senior teams participated in the poster fair. These student groups have worked on their capstone research throughout their senior year. Students presented their posters to a group of judges who later selected the outstanding teams in each category. The categories consisted of aerospace engineering, prototype design, studies, testing, interdisciplinary and vehicle design. Click here to see the project summaries.

Aerospace Engineering:


1st Place Aerospace Engineering: AIAA DBF Crimson Skies-Aaron Allred, Alex Spens, Chris Sherlock, Dalton Gregory, Nathan Justus, Seth Fackler


2nd Place Aerospace Engineering: Composites Processes and Weather Rocket Design-Justin Jackson, Alex McKinstry, Karl Verschuren, Dustin Rann, Jon Stone, Mitch Lonergan


3rd Place Aerospace Engineering: Unmanned Aerial System Dynamometer-Daniel Carlton, Alec Watson, Hannah Hunt, Tonči Maleta

Mechanical Engineering:


First Place Overall (Tie): Design of a Test Setup for Multiple Butterfly Valves-Michael Howell, Tyler Spencer, Colin Sullivan, Garrett Svane AND Experimental Setup to Evaluate Life of Dynamic Polymer Seals in Fluids with Particulates-Karl Geerts, Jordan Miller, Marli Sussman


Third Place Overall: Error Free Part Identification-Caleb Davis, McKenzie Middle, Sylivia Tran, Matthew Von Gonten

Fourth Place Overall: Optimization of an Impeller-Christie Alexander, Sean Davison, Sam Delagi, Alli Haselwood, Patrick Helms


Fifth Place Overall: Design of a Green-Energy Tricycle-Tyler Spencer, Mckenna Beard, Addison Berryman, Austin Burrus


Outstanding Prototype Design: MEMS Subsea Autonomous Robot-Bao Ngo, Nick Julch, Ryan Jacob, Viet Tran, Moises Bernal

Outstanding Prototype Design: Optimization of an Impeller-Christie Alexander, Sean Davison, Sam Delagi, Alli Haselwood, Patrick Helms


Outstanding Interdisciplinary: Error Free Part Identification-Caleb Davis, McKenzie Middle, Sylvia Tran, Matthew Von Gonten


Outstanding Interdisciplinary: ESP Warehouse Productivity-Abdullah Albukhidhr, Aziz Taylakh, David Graft, Elyssa Mooney


Outstanding Interdisciplinary: Cable Preparation Cell in ESP Control Plant-Jackie Chen, Christopher Flix, Kitty Winstel, Jerry Varughese

Outstanding Studies: Tinker Energy Assessment-Konnor Lohman, Tanner Nees, Vu Tran, Michele Musgrove


Outstanding Studies: Mechanical Seal Test Stand-Christina Chavez, Wenyuan Luo, Alex Stockyard, Briek Pauwels

Outstanding Testing: Design of a Test Setup for Multiple Butterfly Valves-Michael Howell, Tyler Spencer, Colin Sullivan, Garrett Svane


Outstanding Testing: Experimental Setup to Evaluate Life of Dynamic Polymer Seals in Fluids with Particulates-Karl Geerts, Jordan Miller, Marli Sussmann

Outstanding Vehicle Design: Design of Green-Energy Tricycle-Tyler Spencer, Mckenna Beard, Addison Berryman, Austin Burrus


First Place Phillips 66 Presentation Award: Design of a Test Setup for Multiple Butterfly Valves-Michael Howell, Tyler Spencer, Colin Sullivan, Garrett Svane


Second Place Phillips 66 Presentation Award: Sooner Off-Road: Semi-Trailing Arm Suspension-Gatlin Arnold, Stephen Walta, Tim Willis


Third Place Phillips 66 Presentation Award: Optimization of an Impeller-Christie Alexander, Sean Davison, Sam Delagi, Alli Haselwood, Patrick Helms

To view the full album from the poster fair on the AME Facebook page, please click here.

Congratulations to all the outstanding groups and all the seniors on their success as undergraduates at OU and AME. We wish you the best in your future endeavors and your engineering careers!

The School of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering recently celebrated the end of the school year with their annual Spring Senior Luncheon in conjunction to the Spring Board of Advisors’ (BOA) meeting. During the luncheon, Tommy Lear, BOA Chair, gave a keynote presentation. AME also celebrated the seniors and bid them farewell and good luck in their future endeavors. Lastly, AME honored two special groups of students. The first was the AME Undergraduate Outstanding Students and the second was the Graduate Student Scholarship Recipients. DSC_4958X

Outstanding Students (left to right): Joel Jimenez Cortez, ME Outstanding Junior; Nathan Justus, AE Outstanding Senior; Jordan Logue, AE Outstanding Junior; Dickens Danson Mugumya, AE Outstanding Sophomore; Octavio Serrano, ME Outstanding Sophomore; and Tim Willis, ME Outstanding Senior.


Graduate Student Scholarship Recipients (left to right): Mustafa Ghazi, Thomas Milam Scholarship; Anand Balu Nellippallil, Frank Chuck Mechanical Engineering Scholarship; Mortaza Saeidijavash, Jim & Bee Close Scholarship; Alejandro Rivas, Jim & Bee Close Scholarship; Jawanza Bassue, ConocoPhillips Scholarship; and (not pictured) Jelena Milisavljevic, Close and Francis Family Scholarship.

Congratulations to the recipients, and good luck to the seniors!

Congratulations to the University of Oklahoma’s Crimson Skies Design Build Fly team for their 5th place finish at the International AIAA Design Build Fly Competition in Wichita, Kansas on April 15-17, 2016. The competition hosted 80 teams from across the world including the University of Texas, Georgia Institute of Technology, Cornell University, University of Southern California, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cairo University, Johns Hopkins University, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Embry Riddle Aeronautical University and many more.

Competition Details:

  • The team successfully completed tech inspection on its first attempt.
  • [Mission 1]  The airplane overheated and short circuited a motor on the first flight (working hard against 20 MPH Wichita winds melted the insulating enamel on the coils).
  • The team was prepared with spare parts to repair the aircraft and propulsion system. They removed took two cells to avoid a similar motor failure and were successful in the very next flight window (~1.5 hours later, still in 20MPH winds).
  • [Mission 2] Mothership airplane carried the smaller craft internally, one lap, good landing just as practiced (25MPH winds).
  • [Mission 3] The team executed the most problematic mission without issue in the most challenging winds of the contest (30MPH).


Team members of Crimson Skies include:

  • Dalton Gregory, Project Manager
  • Seth Fackler, Chief Engineer
  • Alex Spens, Structures Group Lead
  • Dan Carlton, Propulsion Group Lead
  • Nathan Justus, Aerodynamics Group Lead
  • Aaron Allred, Control Systems Specialist
  • Alec Watson, Propulsion Dynomometer Development
  • Chris Sherlock, Manufacturing Specialist
  • Christine Greve
  • Hunter Herzfeld
  • Timothy Blackford
  • Clayton Smith
  • Amy Griffin
  • Alex Bryant
  • Vishnu Priya Parasaram
  • Dylan Gregory
  • Thomas Hays, Faculty Advisor

2016-04-16 16.31.51This top five finish was the best ever finish for OU’s Crimson Skies DBF! A very special thanks to NORDAM for its team sponsorship. The success of the University of Oklahoma at this competition is in great part due to the resources made available by NORDAM.

Congratulations, Crimson Skies! We are so proud of your hard work and great success!


Andrew Kocarnik is pictured on the right with his third place certificate.

AME Graduate Student Andrew Kocarnik recently participated in the AIAA Region IV Graduate Student Paper Competition receiving third place. His paper is titled, “Analysis of the Momentum Method and Blade Element Theory as Applied to Rotorcraft.” Andrew is currently pursuing his M.S. in Aerospace Engineering at OU.

“His work in our helicopter-centric independent study has been exemplary, and the award is well deserved,” said Assistant Professor Thomas Hays, Ph.D. “This paper was based on just the first portion of his work in the semester!”

As a third place winner, Andrew received a $250 cash prize.

Congratulations, Andrew!

Two teams of mechanical engineering seniors recently received financial support from the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) funded through the Office of the Vice President of Research. AME students Mckenna Beard and Tyler Spencer worked together on one project; Robert Berryman and Austin Burrus teamed up for the other project. With the support from UROP, the two teams received research grants of $1,000 each for creative, hands-on projects under the mentorship of a faculty member. Dr. Kuang-Hua Chang, AME Professor, mentored both teams while Jawanza Bassue, AME graduate student, mentored as a design consultant.

Both of the teams had similar objectives: to design a green-energy tricycle that will appeal to commuters at a sale price of $2,000. For Beard and Spencer, their ultimate goal was to create a vehicle that would allow an individual to travel more than 40 miles on a single battery charge without exerting excessive energy. As for Berryman and Burrus, their goal was to improve frame integrity through analysis and lab testing while also reducing the cost of building the frame.

Every year, UROP recipients present the results of their research or accounts of their work in progress at the Honors College’s Undergraduate Research Day. The AME teams presented their research at the annual event on Saturday, April 2, 2016.

Tyler Spencer and Mckenna Beard

Tyler Spencer and Mckenna Beard

Robert Berryman and Austin Burrus

Robert Berryman and Austin Burrus

4AME Senior Jerry Varughese recently traveled to the University of Southern California in Los Angeles to represent the Pi Tau Sigma OU Chapter at the 2016 Pi Tau Sigma National Convention from February 19-21st. Jerry Varughese currently serves as President of the OU Chapter. During his time as a member of Pi Tau Sigma, Jerry has held the following roles: President (2015-2016), Vice-President (2014-2015) and Webmaster (2013-2014). Pi Tau Sigma has been an integral part of his experience at the University of Oklahoma School of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering.

Pi Tau Sigma is a National Mechanical Engineering Honor Society. Members are selected on a basis of sound engineering ability, scholarship (upper 35%), personality and probable future success in their chosen field of mechanical engineering. There are three grades of membership: honorary, graduate and active. Honorary members are technical graduates who are actively engaged in engineering work or mechanical engineering faculty members. Graduate membership is designated for those continuing their education through graduate studies. Active members are selected from the junior and senior mechanical engineering classes at their respective universities whose mechanical engineering curriculum must be accredited by the Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology, also known as ABET.

Over 200 Pi Tau Sigma members from across the United States, Mexico and Qatar were in attendance at the 2016 Pi Tau Sigma National Convention. Some of the highlights of the convention include: (1) the design competition hosted by Autodesk in which members gained exposure to their new CAD software Fusion360, (2) the tour of the California Science Center given by American Astronaut Dr. Paul Rooney, and (3) the Saturday evening keynote speaker Dr. Mau deRidder of Virgin Galactic.


During the tour of the California Science Center, Pi Tau Sigma members were granted access to Space Shuttle Endeavour. This space shuttle was the last to be launched into orbit under NASA’s STS Program.

2Pictured to the left is Jerry with American Astronaut Dr. Paul Rooney. He is the faculty advisor of USC’s Tau Beta Chapter.


Pictured above is Jerry with one of the Space Shuttle’s main three engines. “Growing up, I still remember watching the space shuttle launches on TV,” said Jerry. “It was an amazing experience to finally be able to see one of these engineering marvels in person.”

Jerry will graduate in May 2016 with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering. “Pi Tau Sigma has been one of the greatest experiences in my college career. It has afforded me the opportunity to not only attend this convention, but also network with my fellow Pi Tau Sigma Colleagues, as well as, industry professionals,” said Jerry. “Pi Tau Sigma has added significant value to my experience here at the University of Oklahoma, as well as, my future career in industry.”

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