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March 20, 2023 | Tom Ballard

Nearly 60 Tennessee Tech students will benefit from new NASA-funded initiative

The $8 million initiative is good news for undergraduate students in the university's rapidly growing aerospace concentration in the mechanical engineering program.

NASA has selected Tennessee Tech University (TTU) engineering researchers to lead a team of universities and industry partners to help solve one of aviation’s key challenges for the future of commercial air travel: zero-emission aircraft by 2050.

With an estimated budget of $8 million, the “CarbonLess Electric AviatioN” (CLEAN) project is led by Rory Roberts, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and head of the Propulsion, Power, and Thermal Systems Laboratory at TTU. He is joined by two other Tech faculty members, Bruce Jo, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, and Ahmad Vaselbehagh, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering. Additional team members include Tennessee State University, The Ohio State University, the University of Dayton, the University of Washington – Bothell, Boeing Research & Technology, Raytheon Technologies Research Center, and Special Power Sources.

The funding comes under NASA’s University Leadership Initiative in the agency’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate, which is in final negotiations with teams for funding up to four years. The CLEAN team will directly employ 98 undergraduate and graduate students as researchers across the five universities, with 58 opportunities at TTU alone, according to Roberts. That’s good news for Tech undergraduate students, as the aerospace concentration in the mechanical engineering program is rapidly growing.

“The University Leadership Initiative is an integral part of our research portfolio,” said Bob Pearce, Associate Administrator for the Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “The multidisciplinary teams are directly contributing to our priorities and even leading the exploration of solutions beyond our current portfolio.”

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