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15 Research Opportunities in Aerospace Engineering for High School Students

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

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15 Research Opportunities in Aerospace Engineering for High School StudentsGroup of cheerful happy students holding world globe and looking at camera leaning on white wall at campus.

The design and development of airplanes and spacecraft is the emphasis of aerospace engineering, which captures the interest of many young individuals. Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) is an area that ignites students’ passions for study and provides an exciting experience for those learners. Students can explore spaceship design, aerodynamics, propulsion systems, and the field of interplanetary travel by using their theoretical understanding in a practical setting, going beyond the miracles of flight. Doing research in the aerospace industry offers opportunities for networking and mentorship, as well as practical skills and industry collaboration.  In this blog, let’s look at 15 research opportunities in aerospace engineering for high school students.

1. NASA High School Aerospace Scholars (HAS) Program

  • Location: Online (virtual program)
  • Registration Fee: Free
  • Important Dates: Vary each year (typically in the fall for registration)
  • Eligibility: High school juniors

The NASA High School Aerospace Scholars (HAS) Program is an authentic STEM learning experience for Texas high school juniors, designed to engage them with NASA’s missions and prepare them for careers in STEM fields. The program consists of a year-long commitment, starting in the fall with a four-month online learning experience related to space exploration, Earth science, technology, and aeronautics.

The highest achieving students are invited to a five-day gamified virtual summer experience mentored by NASA scientists and engineers. During this experience, students work in teams to plan an Artemis-themed mission to the Moon and Mars. Top teams from the virtual summer experience are invited to attend a two-day residential experience at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston

2. MIT Beaver Works Summer Institute (BWSI): Aeronautics

  • Location: MIT campus (residential program)
  • Registration Fee: Varies; scholarships may be available
  • Important Dates: Typically in the summer; specific dates vary each year
  • Eligibility: High school students.

The MIT Beaver Works Summer Institute (BWSI) is a rigorous STEM program designed for talented high school students entering their senior year. It offers project-based, workshop-style courses to teach STEM skills. BWSI started in 2016 with a single course and has since grown significantly, offering various courses like Autonomous RACECAR Grand Prix, Autonomous Air Vehicle Racing, Data Science for Health and Medicine, and more.

The program aims to provide students with hands-on learning experiences, allowing them to address real-world problems and engage in innovative projects. BWSI is known for its quality and has been recommended as a valuable pre-college summer program by MIT, leading many participants to gain admission to prestigious universities.

3. Caltech Aerospace (AAAI) Research Mentorship Program

  • Location: California Institute of Technology (Caltech) campus
  • Registration Fee: Free
  • Important Dates: Typically in the summer; specific dates may vary each year
  • Eligibility: High school students

The Caltech Aerospace Research Mentorship Program, also known as AAAI (Aerospace Mentorship Program), is a program offered by Caltech that provides mentorship opportunities in the field of aerospace. This program aims to engage students in aerospace research and provide them with valuable hands-on experience. Students can apply for this mentorship program through an application process, as indicated on the Base 11 website.

The program offers various opportunities and programs related to aerospace research, as detailed on the Caltech Aerospace Mentorship Program’s official website. Additionally, individuals interested in getting involved in this mentorship program can find more information on how to participate on the program’s website.

4. University of Michigan Aerospace Engineering High School Scholars Program

  • Location: University of Michigan campus (Ann Arbor, Michigan)
  • Registration Fee: Free
  • Important Dates: Typically in the summer; specific dates may vary each year
  • Eligibility: High school students

The University of Michigan Aerospace Engineering High School Scholars Program offers a unique opportunity for high school students to delve into the captivating world of aerospace engineering. Through interactive projects, simulations, and discussions, participants explore the principles of flight, spacecraft design, and aviation technology under the guidance of faculty and aerospace professionals. This program not only ignites a passion for aerospace engineering but also instils the problem-solving skills necessary in this field. By providing practical insights into the challenges and innovations driving the aerospace industry, the program aims to inspire and prepare students for potential careers in this dynamic field.

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Moreover, the Aerospace Engineering Camp at the University of Michigan propels participants into a fascinating journey through interactive projects, simulations, and discussions that explore the principles of flight, spacecraft design, and aviation technology. Guided by faculty and aerospace professionals, students gain practical insights into the challenges and innovations driving the aerospace industry. This immersive experience not only ignites a passion for aerospace engineering but also equips participants with problem-solving skills essential for success in this field. By offering a comprehensive educational experience that combines theoretical learning with practical application in a supportive environment, the program aims to inspire and prepare the next generation of aerospace engineers.

5. NASA L’SPACE Academy

  • Location: Virtual program (online)
  • Registration Fee: Free
  • Important Dates: Vary each year; typically in the summer
  • Eligibility: High school students.

The NASA L’SPACE Academy is a program that offers hands-on learning experiences for students interested in pursuing a career with NASA or other space organizations. It consists of two academies: the Mission Concept Academy (MCA) and the NASA Proposal Writing & Evaluation Experience Academy (NPWEE) . Students can choose one academy per semester and participate in a 12-week program designed to provide insight into the space industry, learn NASA mission procedures, and collaborate on mission-related team projects. The Mission Concept Academy focuses on mission development skills training, while the Proposal Writing & Evaluation Experience Academy teaches students how to write effective concept proposals.

The program includes training sessions with NASA scientists and engineers, online sessions, homework, team projects, and final presentations. Students can also apply for internships at locations like NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, KinetX Aerospace, Southwest Research Institute, Lockheed Martin Space, and Arizona State University. Additionally, there is a Lucy Ambassador Program where students can be trained to educate the public about NASA missions.

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6. Stanford University Aerospace Robotics Lab High School Internship

  • Location: Stanford University campus (Stanford, California)
  • Registration Fee: Free
  • Important Dates: Typically in the summer; specific dates may vary each year
  • Eligibility: High school students

The Stanford University Aerospace Robotics Lab High School Internship is a program where high school students can participate in research projects, master basic lab techniques, and present their work over 7 weeks. The internship focuses on improving robotic performance through feedback control, integrated sensing systems, and task-level autonomy. Research at the Aerospace Robotics Laboratory (ARL) includes developing techniques for human-robot interaction at a highly intuitive “task-level,” allowing humans strategic control while robots handle lower-level tasks like path-planning and precision execution.

This Objective-Based Task-Level Control (OBTLC) system enhances the collaboration between humans and robots by leveraging their respective strengths. The ARL works on experimental hardware systems such as mobile robots for land, sea, sky, and space applications, as well as fixed manipulators for space and factory use. The internship provides an opportunity for students to engage in cutting-edge research in aerospace robotics under the guidance of experts in the field

7. NASA Student Airborne Research Program (SARP)

  • Location: NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center (Palmdale, California) and various research flights.
  • Registration Fee: Free
  • Important Dates: Typically in the summer; specific dates may vary each year
  • Eligibility: High school and undergraduate students

The NASA Student Airborne Research Program (SARP) is an eight-week summer internship program for junior undergraduate students to gain hands-on research experience using NASA Airborne Science Program flying science laboratories. These aircraft, such as the DC-8, P-3B, C-23, UC-12B, and ER-2, are utilized for studying Earth system processes, calibrating space-borne observations, and testing instruments for potential satellite missions.

Participants in SARP assist in operating instruments onboard these aircraft to sample atmospheric gases and image land and water surfaces across various spectral bands. Research areas covered include atmospheric chemistry, air quality, forest ecology, and ocean biology. Additionally, students engage in field site measurements and present their research findings at the end of the program.

8. Texas A&M University Aerospace Engineering Research Opportunity

  • Location: Texas A&M University campus (College Station, Texas)
  • Registration Fee: Free
  • Important Dates: Varies depending on the program or initiative; interested students should check with the specific research opportunity they are interested in.
  • Eligibility: High school students

Texas A&M University offers various research opportunities in the field of Aerospace Engineering, providing students with a chance to engage in cutting-edge research and contribute to advancements in the aerospace industry. The Department of Aerospace Engineering at Texas A&M University collaborates with a multi-university team to enhance space domain awareness.

Students can participate in different programs like the Undergraduate Summer Research Grant, Engineering Honors Program, AggiE-Challenge, and more to gain hands-on research experience and develop critical thinking skills. These programs aim to prepare undergraduate engineering students for careers in academic research and help them enhance their professional skills.

9. NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars (NCAS) Program

  • Location: NASA center (on-site experience)
  • Registration Fee: Free
  • Important Dates: Vary each year; typically announced in advance of the program
  • Eligibility: Community college and high school students

The NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars (NCAS) program is a series of STEM education experiences designed for community college students interested in pursuing careers in STEM fields. The program is funded by NASA’s Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP) and aims to encourage students to finish their 2-year degree and pursue a 4-year degree or career in a STEM field.NCAS has three missions:

  1. Discover: A 5-week, self-paced online course that introduces students to NASA’s current plans and how they can contribute.
  2. Explore: Allows students to participate in one of two educational simulation experiences, either a gamified mission to the Moon or Mars or a career simulation where they take on mock roles as NASA employees.
  3. Innovate: An Engineering Design Challenge where students work on a capstone project or participate in a robotics competition.

To be eligible for the program, students must be U.S. citizens, have completed a high school diploma or equivalent, be at least 18 years old, attend a U.S. community college, and have completed or be enrolled in 9+ credits of STEM coursework. Students must also be able to commit to a 5-week online session and have internet access.

10. Georgia Tech Aerospace Systems Design Lab (ASDL) High School Internship

  • Location: Georgia Tech campus (Atlanta, Georgia)
  • Registration Fee: Free
  • Important Dates: Typically in the summer; specific dates may vary each year
  • Eligibility: High school students

The Aerospace Systems Design Lab (ASDL) at Georgia Tech offers a high school internship program focused on aerospace engineering. Participants work on research projects related to aircraft and spacecraft design, optimization, and systems analysis. This hands-on experience allows students to contribute to ongoing aerospace research while working closely with experienced researchers and faculty members.

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During this internship, students have the opportunity to engage in aerospace systems design classes where they can apply their classroom knowledge to real-world projects. The ASDL STEP Program aims to inspire and educate high school students in the field of aerospace systems design

11. NASA Ames Space Camp

  • Location: NASA Ames Research Center (Mountain View, California)
  • Registration Fee: Varies; scholarships may be available
  • Important Dates: Typically in the summer; specific dates may vary each year
  • Eligibility: High school students

The NASA Ames Space Camp is an educational program that offers various experiences related to space exploration, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. It provides hands-on training and simulations to educate participants about space missions and astronaut training techniques. The camp aims to inspire students by immersing them in real-world applications of STEM fields. Participants engage in activities like astronaut training, model rocket construction, living onboard the International Space Station simulations, and designing futuristic Martian colonies. The camp also focuses on developing teamwork, communication skills, and critical thinking abilities essential for 21st-century workplaces.

The Space Life Sciences Training Program (SLSTP) at NASA’s Ames Research Center is a ten-week summer program designed for undergraduate students entering their junior or senior years and graduate students. Hosted in California’s Silicon Valley, the program offers professional experience in space life science disciplines. Participants work closely with NASA scientists on cutting-edge research projects, attend technical lectures, tour NASA facilities, and develop professional skills like presenting scientific work. The program covers research areas such as the effects of spaceflight on living systems, biotechnologies for space exploration, and specialized research facilities for microgravity experiments.

12. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Summer Academy

  • Location: Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University campuses (Daytona Beach, Florida; Prescott, Arizona)
  • Registration Fee: Varies; scholarships may be available
  • Important Dates: Typically in the summer; specific dates may vary each year
  • Eligibility: High school students

The Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Summer Academy offers a range of programs for students interested in aviation, math, robotics, space, and more. These programs include both day camps and overnight camps where students can explore various topics like aerospace engineering, robotics, aviation, and more. The camps are designed to provide hands-on learning experiences in STEM disciplines for students aged 7-18.

The Summer Academy at Embry-Riddle is best suited for individuals interested in aeronautics and aviation as a career path. Participants can expect an immersive experience in aviation education, residing on campus and engaging with university faculty and graduate students. The programs cover a wide array of subjects such as flight, engineering, robotics, space, athletics, safety, security, and intelligence. The camps typically take place in June and July at the Daytona Beach campus in Florida or the Prescott Campus in Arizona,

13. University of Maryland High School Aerospace Engineering Program

  • Location: University of Maryland campus (College Park, Maryland)
  • Registration Fee: Free
  • Important Dates: Typically in the summer; specific dates may vary each year
  • Eligibility: High school students

The University of Maryland High School Aerospace Engineering Program is a part of the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Maryland. This program focuses on preparing students for careers in aerospace engineering, which involves the design, manufacture, and operation of aerospace vehicles like aircraft, spacecraft, and missiles. Aerospace engineers work on various technologies for aviation, defense systems, and space exploration, specializing in areas such as structures, propulsion systems, vehicle movement and control, communications, and overall vehicle design,

The Aerospace Engineering program at the University of Maryland offers a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering degree that provides a strong foundation in various sub-disciplines. Students in this program are required to complete a minimum of 124 credits and are encouraged to participate in undergraduate research experiences, internships, co-ops, or other experiential learning opportunities to enhance their education.

14. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center High School Internship Program

Location: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (Greenbelt, Maryland)

  • Registration Fee: Free
  • Important Dates: Typically in the summer; specific dates may vary each year
  • Eligibility: High school students

The NASA Goddard Space Flight Center High School Internship Program offers high school students the opportunity to engage in STEM-related projects under the guidance of a NASA mentor. This program is part of NASA’s efforts to advance the STEM workforce pipeline by providing learning opportunities for students from kindergarten through graduate school.

The internships at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, allow students to contribute to agency projects and work with a diverse and talented team responsible for breakthroughs in Earth science, astrophysics, heliophysics, and planetary science,

15. Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) High School Internship

  • Location: Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) campus (Laurel, Maryland)
  • Registration Fee: Free
  • Important Dates: Typically in the summer; specific dates may vary each year
  • Eligibility: High school studentsThe Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) offers a high school internship program where students can engage in aerospace research.

The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) High School Internship, known as ASPIRE, is a program designed for high school juniors and seniors to explore STEM careers before committing to a college major. Here are key details about the ASPIRE program based on the provided search results:

  • Program Overview: ASPIRE interns are paired with APL staff mentors to work on projects, solve problems, and develop technical and interpersonal skills in a professional environment. The program aims to provide a supportive space for students to learn about STEM skills and careers.
  • Application Process: The ASPIRE program is competitive, with an acceptance rate of approximately 15%-20%. Applicants are not prioritized based on GPA, STEM experience, or resume strength. The application period for summer 2024 opens on January 1 and closes on February 15.
  • Program Structure: ASPIRE is an unpaid program focused on holistic learning. It requires students to work independently, communicate effectively with mentors, persist through challenges, and think creatively. The primary goal is to offer a supportive environment for students to explore STEM fields.

In addition to the ASPIRE program, the Johns Hopkins APL offers other internship opportunities like the ATLAS Internship Program and the RISE@APL Intern Program for college students. These programs provide hands-on experience in various technical fields and offer opportunities to work on real-world projects alongside experts in the field.
students at UVA

Understanding Aerospace Engineering

Before we delve into the research opportunities, let’s first understand the basics of aerospace engineering. Aerospace engineering involves the design, development, and production of aircraft, spacecraft, satellites, and missiles. It combines principles from various fields such as physics, mathematics, and materials science.

The Basics of Aerospace Engineering

To succeed in aerospace engineering, you should have a strong foundation in mathematics and physics. Understanding subjects such as mechanics, thermodynamics, and fluid dynamics is crucial. Additionally, having a passion for problem-solving and a keen eye for detail are essential traits for an aerospace engineer.

The Importance of Aerospace Engineering in Today’s World

Aerospace engineering plays a vital role in today’s world. It contributes to advancements in aviation, defense systems, and space exploration. Innovations in aerospace engineering have led to safer and more efficient air travel, improved national security, and groundbreaking space missions.

One fascinating aspect of aerospace engineering is the constant push for innovation and improvement. Engineers in this field are always striving to develop lighter and stronger materials, more aerodynamic designs, and more powerful propulsion systems. These advancements not only enhance the performance of aircraft and spacecraft but also contribute to reducing fuel consumption and environmental impact.

Furthermore, aerospace engineering is a truly interdisciplinary field that requires collaboration across various disciplines. Engineers often work closely with experts in fields such as computer science, electrical engineering, and even biology to tackle complex challenges. This collaborative approach not only leads to innovative solutions but also fosters a culture of continuous learning and growth within the aerospace industry.

Preparing for a Career in Aerospace Engineering

If you aspire to pursue a career in aerospace engineering, it’s important to start preparing early. Here are some key aspects to consider:

Embarking on a career in aerospace engineering is an exciting and challenging journey that requires dedication and a strong foundation in various skills. Aerospace engineers play a crucial role in designing, developing, and testing aircraft, spacecraft, satellites, and missiles. They work on cutting-edge technology that pushes the boundaries of what is possible in the field of aviation and space exploration.

Skills Needed for Aerospace Engineering

Aerospace engineers need a combination of technical skills, problem-solving abilities, and creativity. Proficiency in computer-aided design (CAD) software, knowledge of programming languages, and a solid grasp of engineering principles are essential for success in this field. Attention to detail, critical thinking, and the ability to work well in teams are also highly valued skills in the aerospace industry.

Furthermore, aerospace engineers must stay updated on the latest advancements in technology and industry trends to remain competitive in the field. Continuous learning and professional development are key to thriving in this fast-paced and dynamic industry.

Educational Pathways into Aerospace Engineering

To become an aerospace engineer, it is recommended to pursue a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering or a related field such as mechanical engineering. Obtaining a master’s degree or Ph.D. can further enhance your career prospects and open up advanced research opportunities. Many universities offer specialized programs and research opportunities in aerospace engineering, allowing students to gain hands-on experience and work on real-world projects that contribute to the advancement of aerospace technology.

Overview of Research Opportunities

Participating in research as a high school student can be a transformative experience, and it paves the way for future success in aerospace engineering. Let’s explore what research in aerospace engineering involves:

What Does Research in Aerospace Engineering Involve?

Research in aerospace engineering encompasses a wide range of topics, including aerodynamics, propulsion systems, flight dynamics, and materials science. It often involves conducting experiments, developing computer models, and analyzing data to solve complex problems and improve existing technologies.

One fascinating aspect of aerospace engineering research is the exploration of cutting-edge technologies such as hypersonic flight and space exploration. Engineers in this field are constantly pushing the boundaries of what is possible, seeking innovative solutions to challenges like reducing fuel consumption and improving aircraft efficiency.

Furthermore, research in aerospace engineering is not limited to theoretical studies; it also involves practical applications. For example, researchers may collaborate with industry partners to test new materials for aircraft construction or develop more efficient propulsion systems. This hands-on approach allows students to see the direct impact of their work on real-world aerospace projects.

Benefits of Engaging in Research as a High School Student

Engaging in research as a high school student offers several benefits. It allows you to gain hands-on experience, develop critical thinking skills, and work alongside experts in the field. Research also provides opportunities to explore your interests, build a strong foundation for future studies, and make valuable connections.

Moreover, participating in research projects can enhance your college applications and set you apart from other applicants. Admissions committees value students who have demonstrated a passion for learning and a willingness to challenge themselves intellectually. By engaging in aerospace engineering research early on, you showcase your dedication to the field and your ability to contribute meaningfully to scientific advancements.

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With so many research opportunities available, high school students interested in aerospace engineering have a multitude of paths to explore. Whether it’s interning at prestigious aerospace companies, participating in science fairs, or joining aerospace engineering clubs, there are countless avenues to gain hands-on experience and expand your knowledge in this exciting field.

 The mentorship programs, research institutes, and think tanks provide invaluable guidance and exposure to cutting-edge research, allowing students to make meaningful contributions to the aerospace industry. Additionally, the availability of online research projects and scholarships ensures that students can pursue their passion for aerospace engineering, regardless of their location or financial circumstances.

By taking advantage of these research opportunities, high school students can develop a deep understanding of aerospace engineering principles, enhance their problem-solving skills, and build a strong foundation for future academic and professional pursuits in this dynamic field. The exposure to real-world projects, state-of-the-art facilities, and collaboration with industry professionals and leading experts will undoubtedly shape the next generation of aerospace engineers, fueling innovation and advancements in the aerospace industry for years to come.

Making the Most of Research Opportunities

Engaging in research opportunities requires careful planning and preparation. Here are some tips to make the most of your research experience:

Research opportunities can open doors to discoveries and personal growth. By immersing yourself in the world of aerospace engineering, you not only expand your knowledge but also contribute to the advancement of science and technology. The skills you develop through research, such as critical thinking and problem-solving, will serve you well in future endeavors.

Exploring research opportunities is not just about ticking off a box on your academic to-do list; it’s a chance to dive deep into a subject you are passionate about. Take the time to reflect on how each research experience shapes your understanding of the world and your career aspirations. Embrace the challenges and uncertainties that come with research, as they are often the stepping stones to breakthroughs and innovation.

Tips for Applying to Research Opportunities

When applying for research opportunities, be sure to highlight your passion for aerospace engineering and demonstrate your relevant skills and experiences. Craft a compelling resume and personal statement, and don’t hesitate to reach out to mentors or professionals for guidance.

Remember that the application process is not just about showcasing your achievements but also about conveying your enthusiasm and dedication to the field. Share specific examples of projects or coursework that have fueled your interest in aerospace engineering. Personalize your application to each opportunity to demonstrate that you have done your research and are genuinely excited about the prospect of contributing to the project.

Balancing Research with Other High School Responsibilities

While research is a valuable experience, it’s important to strike a balance between your academic commitments and your research projects. Prioritize your schoolwork, maintain good time management skills, and communicate effectively with your mentors to ensure a smooth workflow.

Managing multiple responsibilities can be challenging, but it is also an opportunity to hone your organizational and multitasking skills. Learn to set realistic goals for both your academic and research work, and don’t hesitate to ask for help or delegate tasks when needed. Remember that finding a balance between your various commitments is key to a fulfilling and successful high school experience.

The Future of Aerospace Engineering

Aerospace engineering is a rapidly evolving field, and there are exciting developments on the horizon:

Emerging Trends in Aerospace Engineering

Advances in materials science, propulsion technology, and artificial intelligence are reshaping the future of aerospace engineering. From reusable rockets to electric aircraft, the industry is moving towards more sustainable and efficient solutions.

One of the most intriguing developments in aerospace engineering is the exploration of advanced propulsion systems, such as ion propulsion and nuclear thermal propulsion. These cutting-edge technologies have the potential to revolutionize space travel by significantly reducing travel times and opening up new possibilities for exploration beyond our solar system.

How Early Research Can Shape Your Future Career

Engaging in research early on can provide a solid foundation for a successful career in aerospace engineering. By gaining valuable experience, developing critical skills, and establishing professional connections, you can position yourself for exciting opportunities in the industry.

Furthermore, participating in research projects can expose you to real-world challenges and innovative solutions that are shaping the future of aerospace engineering. Collaborating with industry experts and academic researchers can not only enhance your technical knowledge but also help you develop essential teamwork and problem-solving skills that are highly valued in the field.

As a high school student, the research opportunities available to you in aerospace engineering are vast and varied. Explore these opportunities, pursue your passion, and unlock your potential in this fascinating field. Remember, the sky is not the limit; it’s just the beginning!

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