University of Minnesota Hosts Successful 2019 AIAA Region V Student Paper Conference

The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics 2019 Region V Student Conference was held from April 3-5 at the University of Minnesota in Akerman Hall. The event was an outstanding success, bringing together students from six different universities across the Midwest. 

In total, 53 students participated in the conference, with five students from the University of Minnesota partaking in the event. Additionally, many AIAA student officers from the University of Minnesota helped with planning and administrative aspects of the conference. Participating Universities included: the University of Minnesota, University of Colorado Boulder, Air Force Academy, Missouri University of Science and Technology, and St. Louis University. 

Hosted annually by different Region V chapters, the objective of the conference is to provide students with an opportunity to present their research and technical papers in competition, with the goal of preparing students for a future in aerospace engineering. A panel of five judges evaluated the student’s work. The panel judges this year included: Paul Gross, Kristen Gerzina, David Myren, Kevin Mikkelsen, and Dan Dumbacher. In addition to research competitions, this year’s conference also included an AEM open house, with presentations on the department’s various research and teaching labs, and a tour of Honeywell’s facilities. 

University of Minnesota undergraduate students Robert Halverson and Sophia Vedvik, and University of Minnesota graduate student, Kail Laughlin, competed in the team division at the conference. The trio presented a proposal called the “Advanced Horizons” mission, which is a follow-up to NASA’s New Horizons Mission. The team worked together to design a spacecraft capable of exploring the surface geography and makeup of Pluto.

“The paper conference was an incredible experience, and allowed me to learn a lot about how to present research in a concise, clear, and professional manner,” says  Vedvik. “This is a skill you can’t always learn in the classroom, so I am grateful that I had this opportunity.”

The winner of the 2019 Region-V Student Conference undergraduate division was Reese Fairchild and Matthew Green from the United Air Force Academy, and the winner of the master’s division was Kevin Farmer of St. Louis University. Valerie Lesser, Christopher Peercy, Vishranth Siva, and Colin Sullivan from the University of Colorado at Boulder claimed first place for the team division. AIAA awarded the winning team $500 USD and a trip to the AIAA SciTech Forum in January 2019.

This event would not be possible without the sponsors who donated generous gifts and support. The department would like to personally thank the companies who sponsored the event: AIAA Foundation Advancing Aerospace, Honeywell, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman. 

Special thanks is also given to the conference’s Committee Chair Members, Kristen Gerzina, chair of the AIAA Twin Cities Section; Professor Yohannes Ketema, faculty advisor for the UMN AIAA Student Branch; Tiger Rost, President of the UMN AIAA Student Branch; Robert Halverson, Treasurer of the UMN AIAA Student Branch; Barret McCann, AIAA Region V Deputy Director- Education; Rachel Dowdy, Student and Regional Communities Coordinator; as well as all of the conference judges: Paul Gross, UMN Alumnus, Northrop Grumman employee; Kristen Gerzina, AIAA Region V’s Deputy Director of Finance, Northrop Grumman employee; David Myren, Aero Systems Engineering employee; Kevin Mikkelsen, Aero Systems Engineering employee; and Dan Dumbacher, Executive Director of AIAA. 

Congratulations to all the students who participated in the AIAA 2019 Region V-Student Conference.

To read more about the conference visit