Department of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering in the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan


Faculty Insight: Victors for Michigan Campaign

Posted: September 13, 2014

Faculty Insight: Victors for Michigan Campaign

 By: Michael W. Liemohn, Professor

The Victors for Michigan Campaign is our opportunity to celebrate the approach of the University of Michigan's towards its bicentennial anniversary and the progression into its third century. It's about the University of Michigan being the best that it can be at educating the next generation of leaders and being in the vanguard of scientific discovery. The campaign has three big-picture priorities: student support, engaged learning, and bold ideas.

The Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic, and Space Sciences is playing a key role in achieving these objectives. AOSS is a department where science and engineering are merged at a deep level, science-driven engineering, bringing a fundamental, rigorous knowledge of the natural environment together with a practical, hands-on intuition to identify and solve the pressing problems facing the world today.

Here are a few great things about AOSS in the recent news. AOSS Professor Chris Ruf is leading the development and eventual operation of the Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System, or CYGNSS. This is a new NASA-sponsored satellite mission in which eight small spacecraft will measure GPS signals that have been reflected off of the ocean surface and determine wind speeds, including in the center of hurricanes. Students are involved in many aspects of CYGNSS, especially as part of the science team, which is centered here at Michigan. In addition, Professor Nilton Renno's laboratories have recreated the soil and atmospheric conditions of Mars to demonstrate how liquid water could possibly exist on the Red Planet. As a third example, the University of Michigan's solar car team just won the American Solar Challenge, and AOSS students are involved in this project, not only as engineers on the team but as student meteorologists for real-time weather predictions, a critical component of top-form solar racing.

We offer students experiences that they will remember for the rest of their lives. Here are a few of them. We send students on a Tornado Camp every spring, traveling to Texas and Oklahoma in search of thunderstorms that might produce tornado activity. They go in vehicles bristling with atmospheric sensor equipment and chase the storms across the Great Plains for a couple of weeks. We send students to Greenland and Antarctica to install scientific instruments and make measurements of the climate and space environment. There's nothing quite like digging a hole in the ice at South Pole Station for your autonomous magnetometer while bundled in snow gear. It makes the winters here in Michigan look pretty nice. We also have students building high-altitude balloon payloads for a scientific instrumentation class. These interdisciplinary teams learn the entire scientific field experiment life cycle, including the design, build, launch, and analyze phases of the project. Depending on their weather analysis, the students pick a launch location in western Michigan and then follow the balloon with a real-time GPS link. It's a fantastic end-to-end mission design project that helps prepare them for a career in the climate or space engineering industries.

A final example is the CubeSat program growing within the College of Engineering, as a partnership between AOSS, Aerospace, and other programs across Michigan's College of Engineering. CubeSats are tiny satellites, ranging from the size of your fist to your forearm, for which a very cheap and low-risk launcher has been developed to release these satellites from a primary payload's upper stage. This has opened up the floodgate for student-built spaceflight hardware projects, and we are leading the way in offering design, build, and operation experiences to students involving real spaceflight hardware.

We have many exciting opportunities for students here in AOSS at the University of Michigan. We want to build on our successes and train the next-generation of innovators and explorers whose knowledge is based not only on classroom rigor but also on experiential ventures. One example of this is allowing them to release their full creative potential in multi-disciplinary design courses. We would love to expand our capacity for these teams to tackle the pressing needs in climate and space engineering. We hope to expand our balloon and satellite hardware development projects to allow even more students to participate in these amazing endeavors.

We strongly encourage alumni and friends of AOSS to participate in the Victors for Michigan Campaign. We want you to help make Michigan the best it can be. We want you to become excited about what we're planning here and to become involved in making it happen. Please visit our website and click on the "Giving to AOSS" link or feel free to contact us for more information.

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