The Sky’s the Limit for the Mechanical Engineering Department

The 2023 Blue Skies Competition Team. BAHAREHESTEJAB/COURTESY

By: Mack Olmsted, Asst. Production Editor/Asst. Arts and Entertainment Editor

Manhattan College mechanical engineering students are looking towards a cleaner, tech-advanced future by participating in NASA’s Blues Skies competition. 

Back in 2022, Bahareh Estejab, Ph.D, a professor in the mechanical engineering department, was informed about a competition spearheaded by NASA that involves student engineers and was eager to submit her class for it. MC ended up being one of eight finalists within the competition. 

Estejab and her class are back to compete in NASA’s 2023 competition, during which they will be working on finding alternative clean aviation energy sources for the 2050s.

The Blue Skies competition is all about the future of aviation. According to the flier, The 2050s aviation landscape will incorporate new technologies and designs that enable aircrafts to fly safer, faster, cleaner and quieter. Participants will incorporate the use of alternative energy sources that aren’t typically used in the present day in order to reduce the climate impacts caused by aviation. As of now, Estejab’s team is considering using hydrogen-fuel as their main energy source at the competition.

The mechanical engineering department encourages their students to take on hands-on projects within the undergraduate level. The purpose of these projects and competitions is to get students to think about real world problems. Through the Blue Skies competition, students gain communication and teamwork skills as well as perspectives and experiences that they are able to use for their future careers.

Parisa Saboori, Ph.D, chairperson of the mechanical engineering department, expressed her thoughts on the collaboration with NASA and how the opportunity gives students the chance to be a part of an experience that teaches them lifelong lessons.

“Because of all of these research projects, students will get to know the field much better,” Saboori said. “In many cases, they actually have to get their hands into the project and build the prototype, which gives them real time experience. And that means that they are going to be much more ready and better than any students who have not experienced a hands-on project.”

Manahill Gohar, a junior mechanical engineering student, participated in the Blue Skies competition last year and will return with Estejab this year for the new project. Gohar shared her thoughts about NASA giving colleges and universities opportunities to participate in the Blue Skies competition.

“It is a great way to get people informed and involved with the current issues we are facing regarding the climate crisis,” Gohar said. “In addition, these competitions can help brainstorm ideas to solve the carbon emission crisis, as well as allow students to meet with industry leaders in the fields they are interested in.”

Maha Jan, a senior mechanical engineering student, explained that she and her teammates are hard at work with the alternative energy source pitch. She described why she is looking forward to the competition this year and what their goal is to succeed in their project.

“Due to my passion for future sustainable aviation, I decided to continue my research into the 2023 NASA Blue Skies competition,” Jan said. “Dr. Estejab agreed to lead a new team that will compete in this year’s competition. Our goal for 2023 concentrates on the creation, generation, storage, transportation, safety and onboarding into the aircraft.”

Estejab is proud of her class and is passionate about all the work they’ve put into it. She is looking forward to helping the team with their new project and seeing how they can put their minds to the test. 

“I think all in all it is a great experience that they’re gaining, and working together as a team is going to teach them teamwork,” Estejab said. “Doing research is going to prepare them for their future work, if they want to go to grad school… having a team that works together, who are passionate about something, creates that atmosphere that actually teaches them how important the research is.”

As of now, Estejab is hard at work with her class working on the Blue Skies competition. She also has another class who is working on a proposal for NASA about reducing noise within electric vertical take-off and landing vehicles (eVTOL). The class will submit their proposal by the end of the month. If NASA approves of the proposal, the class will be granted $80,000 to continue their research.