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Two Engineering undergrads receive New Mexico Space Grant Consortium Scholarships

July 8, 2024 - by Kim Delker

Two students in the UNM Department of Mechanical Engineering are the recipients of 2024-2025 New Mexico Space Grant Consortium Undergraduate Research Scholarships.

photo: Micah Wolbrecht
Micah Wolbrecht

The recipients are Alex Atcitty and Micah Wolbrecht. They each will receive $5,000 for two academic semesters for research projects that are aligned with NASA goals.

Atcitty is working with Professor Tariq Khraishi on a project to find an analytical second-order solution to the damage zone and plastic shape of a semi-infinite crack tip. The shape of the plastic zone directly impacts the direction cracks spread, so a better understanding of plastic zones helps predict how cracks propagate through a material.

“In the past, Dr. Khraishi has worked with students to find a first-order solution with the software Mathematica, and in this project, we are using those results to make a second order,” Atcitty said.

Wolbrecht’s research project aims to build a data acquisition system and a post-processing procedure to measure heat transfer in rocket chamber walls. He will be working with Georgios Koutsakis, an assistant professor, on the project.

photo: Alex Atcitty
Alex Atcitty

Wolbrecht said that the rotating detonation rocket engine development is of current interest developments in aerospace due to the potential for 10-25% improvement in fuel-thrust efficiency. He said that the data acquisition system will enable important data collection of various propulsion applications, including rotating detonation rocket engines. The proposed project will be part of UNM’s collaboration with NASA Marshall Space Flight Center to develop heat transfer models for high heat flux propulsion applications.

“Our new data acquisition system will enable research to understand cooling heat transfer of various high heat flux applications,” he said.

The Undergraduate Research Scholarship opportunity is open to full-time undergraduate students enrolled at any community college or university in New Mexico. Applicants must be majoring in a STEM field. Scholarships are competitively awarded based on application information including research project, its alignment to NASA, a faculty letter of recommendation and grade-point average. These awards fund students to work on research for two academic semesters, with funding limited to four semesters.