University of Colorado
College of Engineering & Applied Science
Aerospace Engineering Sciences
Department Update | Summer 2012
Spencer Riggs
Alum applies CU aerospace degree certifying aircraft for flight testing
Alumnus Spencer Riggs (BS/MS AeroEngr '09) credits AES courses in technical writing and flight dynamics for the knowledge and skills he needs to excel in his position as the Deputy Airworthiness Lead on the RQ-4E Euro Hawk program for Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems (NGAS). Once again en route to the NGAS test location near Munich, Germany, where the aircraft and his customer are located, Spencer hopes to secure an airworthiness certificate to begin flight testing of the payload in Germany.

Spencer's primary responsibilities at NGAS are to provide day-to-day direction to the team of Airworthiness Certification engineers. "No two days are the same. One day the team may address a question about the aircraft's fuel system, and the next day we might evaluate the consequences of a modification to the navigation system," he says, noting that he interfaces with every group involved in the design, manufacturing, flight testing, operation, and maintenance of the Euro Hawk system.

"My education at CU-Boulder was instrumental in preparing me for a career in the aerospace industry, as well as my current position. In order to judge the flight readiness of the system, you need a working knowledge of the entire system, from aerodynamics to structural analysis principles to electronic component design. Every day, I call upon a different part of my educational background to get the job done. Surprisingly, the Technical Writing class proved invaluable, enabling me to write clearly, concisely, and correctly as I communicate with customers and suppliers. Flight Dynamics helped establish the background to understand the characteristics of our unique aircraft."

The Euro Hawk system is a modified RQ-4B Global Hawk mated with a Signals Intelligence payload developed by EADS-Cassidian for Wide Area Stand Off Surveillance for the German Air Force. More information about the program can be found at the Northrop Grumman website. Spencer plays a critical role in getting the system certified for use in worldwide airspace by the German Air Force.

Each edition of our quarterly AES e-newsletter features an alum of our department. If you are interested in being featured, please send an email to, describing your work and how you are applying your AES education in the field.
AES student wins $10,000 scholarship
Chelsea Welch Congratulations to Chelsea Welch, awarded the annual National Space Club Robert H. Goddard Memorial Scholarship for the 2012-13 year.

A senior aerospace major, Chelsea flew to Washington D.C. to accept the $10,000 award at the annual Robert H. Goddard Memorial Dinner, a black tie event held on March 30.

In addition to giving an acceptance speech in front of 2,500 top aerospace professionals at the awards dinner, Chelsea had the unique opportunity to meet Lt. General Ellen Pawlikowski, Commanding General of the Space and Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles, CA, who encouraged her to apply for a position working for the SMC while participating in the Department of Defense SMART scholarship for service (civilian) program. "If I am awarded this position, they will pay my tuition plus living expenses for the rest of my schooling through graduate school, in return for employment at the SMC," says Chelsea, who is solely responsible for paying for her college education. "It's beyond anything I could have ever imagined." Awesome accomplishment, Chelsea!
Women in Aerospace scholarship recognizes motivated AES junior
Kirstyn Johnson Congratulations to aerospace junior Kirstyn Johnson, who won the Women in Aerospace (WIA) Foundation Scholarship for the 2012-2013 academic year. Kirstyn will be honored at the 27th Annual WIA Banquet on Nov. 1 in Arlington, Virginia.

"Receiving this scholarship helps me keep in perspective why I do what I do," says Kirstyn. "Sometimes it can be tiring after long days of work, but I deal with it because I love what I'm doing, and know it will help me reach my dream job. This recognition just shows that all the long hours are paying off!"

Kirstyn credits CU with giving her the ability to win this award, which provides $1,000 toward her education. "Since I was a freshman I've been granted the chance to experience a lot of cool things in and out of classes that have expanded my love for aerospace. In addition, I've had awesome mentoring from some of the faculty and older students," she says. "Looking back on my first three years here, there is nothing that I'd want to change or have a chance to do over." Well done, Kirstyn!
AES alumni, faculty, staff reconnect at College Alumni Picnic
Engineering Alumni Picnic

Aerospace graduate students Bruce Davis and Brandon Seifert offered a special space-based outreach activity for children at the alumni picnic as part of the We Want Our Future! program, which encourages kids to imagine their future careers where science, technology, and math are important and create a postcard depicting their dreams for the future.
About 100 alumni, faculty, staff, and their families turned out for the CU Engineering alumni picnic on July 14 on the CU Business Field next to the Engineering Center. Aerospace alumni who attended the picnic had the opportunity to visit with our new department chair, Professor Penny Axelrad, as well as long-time AES Office Manager Patti Gassaway.

Guests enjoyed the chance to network and tour the interactive exhibits in the Integrated Teaching and Learning Laboratory, and many showed their Buffs pride by donning CU tattoos. Dean Robert H. Davis spoke to the group about the many ways CU students and faculty are making a difference in our world through engineering projects, research, and outreach programs including the Mortenson Center in Engineering for Developing Communities and K-12 engineering education initiatives. Dean Davis highlighted the new Jenny Smoly Caruthers Biotechnology Building on East Campus and the energy initiatives that involve faculty and students from departments across the college.

We hope you'll join us for an upcoming event on campus or in your local area. Visit the college alumni events page to learn about upcoming events and to view photos from the alumni picnic.
Come Back to Boulder, Back to Class
Back to Boulder 2012 You know that dream where you're back in school and are unprepared for an exam? Turn that nightmare into a dream come true by auditing an aerospace engineering class for FUN (no tests!) on Friday, Nov. 2 during the 2012 Back to Boulder (Homecoming) Weekend.

Open for alumni to attend are the following three courses:
ASEN 4013 - Foundations of Propulsion with Assistant Professor Ryan Starkey
ASEN 5018 - Graduate Projects 1 LAB with Professor Xinlin Li
ASEN 5090 - Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) with Professor and Department Chair Penina Axelrad

Details and registration will be posted soon on the Back to Boulder website.
Get Involved!
Attention women employed in the aerospace industry in Colorado! Do you want to make a difference in the life of a new female aerospace engineering student?

Get involved by becoming a mentor! Meet our new female students and learn about AES mentoring opportunities by joining us for our academic year Welcome Dinner for first year female AES students on Wednesday, Sept. 5 at 6 p.m. at the home of Professor (and new department chair) Penny Axelrad in Gunbarrel, CO.

Enjoy food, make new friends, and catch up with old acquaintances! Send an email to for detailed information.
Note from the Chair, Penny Axelrad
Penina AxelradDear Alumni and Friends,

I hope you are all enjoying the summer so far. The parking lots on campus are emptier than during the school year, but new research projects and meetings seem to be filling in the time I was spending on classes - and then some. I am excited to be transitioning this summer into the role of AES department chair. First, I'd like to express my appreciation and admiration for outgoing chair Jeff Forbes, for his leadership of the department for the past four years. We are extremely fortunate to have a dynamic, accomplished and collegial faculty, and an outstanding student body.

The aerospace community, along with most sectors of the economy, is currently in a period of great challenge; yet there are also many exciting new opportunities on the horizon in UAV systems, commercial spaceflight, and robotic exploration. Our faculty, students, and alumni are deep in the mix of it. I hope you enjoy hearing about our recent activities and successes, and that you will take a moment to share your news with us.

With warm regards,
Honors & Awards
Undergraduate students and teams

Kirstyn Johnson (junior), Women in Aerospace Foundation Scholarship

Robert Stillwell (senior), NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program for 2012

Chelsea Welch (junior), National Space Club - Robert H. Goddard Memorial Scholarship

Aaron Young (senior), May 2012 Outstanding Graduate for Service, CU College of Engineering and Applied Science

AES senior design projects swept AIAA Region V Student Conference Team Category Awards for a third year in a row with first, second and third place wins in 2010, 2011, 2012 (read more)

H2BuffalO, CU's graduate/undergrad team, took third place and $1,000 in the Design, Build, Fly competition (55 teams from 28 states and 12 foreign countries)

Graduate students
and teams

Paul Anderson, AIAA Foundation Orville and Wilbur Wright Graduate Award

Lauren Blum, NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship Award

Holly Borowski, NASA Aeronautics Scholarship Graduate Award

Ben Bradley, eSpace Entrepreneurship Award

Matthew Cannella, SEDS-USA Todd B. Hawley Leadership Award

Brad Cheetham, DOT/FAA Center of Excellence for Commercial Space Transportation Student of the Year; John A. Vise Graduate Student Excellence Award, eSpace Entrepreneurship Award

Heather Hava, eSpace Entrepreneurship Award

Erik Hogan, John A. Vise Graduate Student Excellence Award

MacArthur Jones, Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship

Xianjing Liu, Outstanding Student Paper Award in Space Physics and Aeronomy, AGU

Dan Lubey, NDSEG Fellowship Award; NASA NSTRF Fellowship

Felipe Nievinski, Outstanding Student Paper Award, AGU

Robert Ocampo, AES Graduate Student Service Award

Daan Stevenson, NSTR Fellowship

Laura Stiles, National Space Symposium Master Moderator; Beverly Sears Travel Award; Philanthropic Educational Organization (PEO) Scholar Award

David Surovik, NASA NSTRF Fellowship

Weichao Tu (Ph.D. 2011), Outstanding Student Paper Award, AGU

Sibylle Walter, NASA Aeronautics Scholarship

Hyperion Green Aircraft Project, "Best Paper Award," AIAA Conference

Extraterrestrial Outpost (ExO): Design and Implementation of a Long Term Sustainable Lunar Habitat, first place, 2012 RASC-AL competition

University of Colorado, Delft University of Technology, and University of Stuttgart team: Human Exploration of Near Earth Asteroids – a Revolutionary Mission Architecture (led by Jon Herman, a Delft graduate who interned at CU in 2011-2012 and enrolled as PhD candidate in AES for Fall 2012), second place, RASC-AL competition

Sierra Nevada Hiring!
Sierra Nevada Company's Louisville, CO office is looking for engineers, technicians, and other specialists to work on the Dream Chaser Space System. Learn more at and view the careers page for specific openings.

Support AES  |  Connect on LinkedIn  |  Visit the AES Website  |  Update Your Alumni Info  |  Alumni Home

Aerospace Engineering Sciences
College of Engineering and Applied Science | P: 303-492-6417 | F: 303-492-7881
429 UCB, Boulder, CO 80309-0429