Family Weekend 2014: Time for the parents to take note

Family Weekend 2014: Time for the parents to take note
Atlanta, GA

As AE undergraduates Aaron Blacker and Kevin Okseniuk took to the podium, the air in Guggenheim 442 got very still.

As AE undergraduates Aaron Blacker and Kevin Okseniuk took to the podium, the air in Guggenheim 442 got very still.

These students -- and their research mentors --  had lessons to give, and it was the parents who were all ears.

Welcome to Family Weekend 2014.

The annual event gives parents of all Georgia Tech students a chance to visit campus, where they can see their sons and daughters at work.

More than 100 parents signed up to visit AE, where they spoke informally with faculty before taking in formal presentations by researchers from the Aerospace Systems Design Lab (ASDL) and undergraduates Black and Okseniuk.

First up were  ASDL research engineer Carl Johnson and masters student Tom Neuman, who gave a talk about micro air vehicle competitions which ASDL teams have dominated for the last four years.

Johnson and Neuman have mentored undergraduates for 5 years in a row, helping AE competition teams to transition from paper designs to building micro air vehicles and flying them. Under their guidance, students have also developed associated ground stations, remote control techniques for keeping the vehicles in the air, and light aircraft fabrication technologies.

Okseniuk and Blacker took their charge every bit as seriously as the more senior mentors who proceeded them at the podium.

The two spoke confidently about cubesats they are building, the future of air-breathing engines, and other adventures they are pursuing as undergraduates in the School of Aerospace Engineering.

A lot of pride, and a little bit of awe. Parents listening to Blacker and Okseniuk were attentive.

A beaming Kelly Blacker said she couldn't believe how well Aaron's experience has suited the New York sophomore, who is now president of the Ramblin Rockets Club.

"We were nervous when we sent him so far away for school," she said.

"But he is so engaged, so involved, so challenged here. He loves it. And so do we."

Fresh back from a summer research project at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab, Okseniuk gave listeners a gripping description of the Prox-1 project -- the first-ever Georgia Tech built space vehicle, which will be launched sometime in the next 18 months. Okseniuk, a junior, is working closely with the project's principal investigator (PI), Prof. David Spencer.

When he took to the podium AE sophomore Aaron Blacker explained his work like a seasoned professional.Check out his PowerPoint.

For a moment, Okseniuk had to humbly admit that some of what he was talking about had daunting implications. It really is rocket science.

But he regained his composure by quoting his roommate and fellow Georgia Tech student Nick Selby:

"We're Georgia Tech. We can do that."

How true.

 Check out this slideshow from the Family Weekend presentations.

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