Press Release

NASA Selects Visionary Students for Fellowships

By SpaceRef Editor
June 14, 2005
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Five undergraduate students have each been awarded a $9,000 NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC) fellowship to investigate revolutionary ideas for space exploration.

Future space explorers may use windmills to generate power on Saturn’s giant moon Titan, or employ micro-robots that find hidden leaks by swarming like bees, or be warned of dust storms on Mars by detecting microwaves from their electrical activity, if some of the proposals selected for the NIAC Student Fellows program come to pass.

“We at the NIAC are delighted by the quality and diversity of the proposals we received, and we look forward to exciting work by these creative and accomplished students,” said Dr. Diana Jennings of the Universities Space Research Association (USRA), NIAC Associate Director. Jennings manages the Student Fellows program. The Universities Space Research Association operates NIAC for NASA, and provided the funds for the fellowships.

The winners of the NIAC Student Fellows Prize for Academic Year 2005-2006 are as follows:

  • Andrew Bingham, Clarkson University, Potsdam, N. Y., for: “Interstellar Exploration by Repeated External Acceleration”
  • Nicholas Boechler, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Ga., for: “Direct Conversion for Solar Space Power”
  • Aimee Covert, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Mich., for: “Advanced Concept for the Detection of Weather Hazards on Mars: Non-Thermal Microwave Emissions by Colliding Dust/Sand Particles”
  • Joseph Fronczek, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, N. M., for: “Bio-Inspired Sensor Swarms to Detect Leaks in Pressurized Systems”
  • Brian Sikkema, Michigan Technological University, Houghton, Mich., for: “Wind-Driven Power Generation on Titan”

  NIAC investigates revolutionary ideas that could greatly advance NASA’s missions in the future. The proposals push the limits of known science and technology, and thus are not expected to be realized for at least a decade or more.

“Individual students or multidisciplinary groups of students, overseen by a faculty advisor, are given the opportunity to develop proposals addressing NIAC topics, adhering to our unique requirements for projects 10 to 40 years into the future,” added Jennings. “The Prize is intended to foster mentoring, networking, and creativity, and is a student’s first opportunity to exercise responsibility in project management.”

Each Student Fellow will receive a total of $9,000 for the Academic Year 2005-2006. Funds will be directly disbursed to the Student Fellow in three equal increments: September 2005, December 2005, and March 2006. Student Fellows have the flexibility to use the funds as needed to advance their concept development, with the requirement that they must also be used to fund travel and hotel expenses for themselves and their mentor to two NIAC meetings, one in Boulder, Colo. in October, 2005, and the other in Atlanta, Ga. in March 2006. “Along the way it is hoped that interaction with the broader NIAC community will educate and inspire these gifted students,” said Jennings.

The next call for NIAC Student Fellows Program proposals will be released in January 2006 for awarding in the 2006 – 2007 Academic Year.

NIAC was created in 1998 to solicit revolutionary concepts from people and organizations outside NASA. For more information about NIAC, refer to:

SpaceRef staff editor.