MIT Aero Astro -

November 2015

In this issue:
1. Welcome
2. Honors, awards
3. Newsnotes
4. Willcox receives education grant
5. In the picture
6. Policy - use of MIT name

1. Welcome

Welcome to our new postdocs: Sergio Amaral, postdoc associate with Professor Karen Willcox; Ulas Ayas, postdoc associate with Professor Sertac Karaman; Riccardo Mantellato, postdoc fellow with Dr. Saenz-Otero; Philip Wolfe, postdoc associate with Professor Steven Barrett; and Xun Huan, postdoc associate with Professor Youssef Marzouk.


Koki HoKoki Ho

Luke Johnson

Brett Lopez

Jon How

2. Honors and awards

Koki Ho has received the 2015 Luigi G. Napolitano Award, presented annually by the International Astronautical Federation to an under-30 scientist who "has contributed significantly to aerospace science." Professor Oli de Weck reports that "Koki was awarded for his work on Time-Expanded Network Flow Models and Campaign Models to the Moon and Mars, conducted here at MIT AeroAstro as part of his doctoral research which he completed in May 2015. Koki is currently at JPL and will start his tenure-track faculty position at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's Department of Aerospace Engineering in January 2016."

AeroAstro grad students Luke Johnson and Brett Lopez, and Professor Jon How were part of an MIT team that captured first place in the IEEE Control Systems Society's 2015 Video Contest. Their video, "Controlling Self-Driving Cars," may be viewed at

Ceili Burdhimo, seen here with proud dad, Gian.

Senior Ceili Burdhimo, seen here with proud dad, Gian, received a $10,000 scholarship award from the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, an organization that exists "to aid the United States in retaining its world leadership in science and technology by providing college scholarships for the very best and brightest students pursuing science, technology, engineering or math degrees." AeroAstro professor and former astronaut Jeff Hoffman notes,"This is a completely merit-based award."


Julie Shah
Julie Shah

Mark Veligor
Mark Veligor

Sydney Do
Sydney Do

2. Newsnotes

Professor Julie Shah recently presented the TEDxCambridge talk "Engineering Intelligent Machine Teammates." You can watch the 15-minute video at TEDxCambridge is "a unique evening event experience and technology exhibition that draws from the remarkable wealth of innovation, creativity, and inspiration found within Cambridge and beyond."

AeroAstro senior leadership giving officer Mark Veligor and wife Laura gave birth to their second child, 9 lb. 1 oz. and 21" Charles Anthony, on Oct. 22. Congratulations to Mark, Laura, and big brother Andrew.

Over the last year, grad student Sydney Do has been providing technical advice to Fusion TV, a Univision/Disney/ABC collaboration as they develop an online virtual-reality "Mars Experience." Sydney reports that it’s a realistic simulation of what it would be like to live and work on Mars and includes mini-games and info modules about Mars habitation, spacewalks, and scientific activities. NASA has joined in, signing a Space Act Agreement with the team that allows the agency to assist. More information coming as the project moves forward.

Mary Kathryn Juskiewicz of the Division of Student Life invites AeroAstro students who are military veterans to contact her for information regarding MIT student veteran clubs. She notes that the Institute maintains room 50-010 for veteran students' exclusive use, and that there is a committee dedicated to veterans issues that comprises faculty,staff, and students. Email her at

MIT Libraries reports that this past summer the most downloaded DSpace Open Access Articles Collection paper was "An Independent Assessment of the Technical Feasibility of the Mars One Mission Plan," by grad students Sydney Do, Koki Ho, Sam Schreiner, Andrew Owens, and Professor Oli de Weck. de Weck says that the paper was downloaded "around 1,100 times" during August alone. The authoring team received substantial media coverage when it took issue with the technical feasibility of nonprofit organization Mars One's plans to colonize the Red Planet.





Karen WIllcox
Karen Willcox

4. Willcox receives education grant

Professor Karen Willcox leads a team that has been awarded a First in the World Development Grant by the Department of Education. Professor Willcox writes: "'Towards scalable differentiated instruction using technology-enabled competency-based dynamic scaffolding' targets improved student achievement by enabling teachers to provide differentiated instruction in a scalable way. This project proposes that student achievement can be scalably, significantly increased through (1) combining tested methods of modularity and curriculum mapping to create competency-based mappings, (2) creating a companion 'fly-by-wire'" technology that enables teachers to differentially guide students towards competencies, and (3) deploying this approach on a flexible framework that integrates open technologies to achieve cost-effective scalability."

The project will be developed as a partnership among MIT, edX, and Massachusetts and Colorado community colleges, a team that provides scalability and user adoption by institutions of higher education serving high-need students. Willcox notes "Feedback control and fly-by-wire systems have revolutionized the piloting of modern aircraft. We are excited by the prospect of drawing on these concepts to design, develop, implement and test a fly-by-wire system for education, where human teachers are complemented by digital technologies to make possible differentiated instruction for students."

Visit the Fly-by-Wire project's website at



5. In the picture

AIAA meeting
In late September, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics MIT Chapter hosted a New England AIAA regional meeting. Pictured are the MIT AIAA executive committee with other student and professional members from throughout the Northeast.

Beaver Works seaplane in the water
With the help of MIT Academic Media Production Services, the Department has released a new video that follows the development of the recent Capstone Class/Beaver Works/Lincoln Lab seaplane project. This unique aircraft is designed to autonomously land, taxi to a floating recharging pod, and then resume flight. Should the plane flip over on landing, it rights itself by rotating its skyward-pointing pontoons 180 degrees, lifting the body out of the water, and then rotating the fuselage 180 degrees back to its normal position.

Beaver Works teamThe Capstone/Beaver Works/Lincoln following its successful demonstration for project sponsor US Air Force.
It was 90 years ago that Aeronautics became its own course at MIT (Course 16). Pictured here are members of the 1925 graduating class. One of the best-known individuals in this class was famed military aviator Jimmie Doolittle (SM '24, ScD '25), ninth from the right, who had been presented two Distinguished Flying Crosses by the time he received his doctorate.

6. Policy - use of MIT name

From time to time, companies request permission to promote that their products and services are used by MIT labs and classes. Peter Bebergal, the MIT Technology Licensing Office's officer in charge of name/trademark use, reminds faculty, staff, and students to be aware of Institute Policy 12.3, which states, "The Institute's name must not be used in ways that suggest or imply the endorsement of other organizations, their products, or their services." If you're unclear if a request constitutes such proscribed use, you can check with Bebergal at The complete text of Policy 12.3 is available at


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