Dr. Davide Conte: “This is just the first year!”
Over the 2019 and 2020 academic years, Embry-Riddle has been developing a proposal for the NASA RASC-AL (Revolutionary Aerospace Space Concepts Academic Linkage) system design competition, with the goal of creating a system that can deliver a crew of four astronauts to the surface of Mars for 30 days. A promotional video for the ERAU design is available on [horizons-news.com].
Dr. Davide Conte, a professor new to ERAU as of 2018, brings system design experience to the team in the role of lead advisor. “This is a multi-campus, multi-disciplinary, mission design competition that is made up of students from students from Prescott campus, Daytona campus, and the Worldwide campus,” said Dr. Conte. With a team size of 32 students, ERAU took full advantage of their multidisciplinary skill set to submit the initial proposal that was due March 5th, 2020.
On March 30th, teams will be notified of their selection status to proceed forward in the competition. “If we get selected… we’ll get to go to the competition in June,” says Dr. Conte, “then we will have to do a final report which is due at the end of May.”
Dr. Conte explains, “When the report is submitted, we will go present and also have a poster presentation… in Cocoa Beach Florida, which is down the street from our partner campus.” Of course, Dr. Conte and his teammates also look forward to competing in the campus-versus-campus beach volleyball competiton that is planned in parallel with the conference.
If Embry-Riddle wins the competition, “we get funding to go to a conference and show our design at a space-related conference,” continues Dr. Conte. Historically, teams that have continued to this point in the competition have been able to translate their work into a published journal paper.
This is only the first year that ERAU has participated in RASC-AL, spurred by Dr. Conte joining Embry-Riddle faculty in 2019. He plans to continue to advise teams into the future and hopes to continue to streamline the entire process. “Dr. Madler and the Dean of the College of Engineering at Daytona Beach have both been very supportive of this idea,” says Dr. Conte.
Dr. Conte believes that the competition is “one of those things where the more you put into it, the more you get out of it.” He certainly embodied this ideology during his PhD studies, mentioning the sheer amount of hours he invested in this competition while he was at Penn State. “When you interview, people aren’t going to ask you, ‘Did you do your required course load?’… They are going to ask you about the things you’ve done, and your experiences.”
Presently, 32 students across all ERAU campuses are competing in RASC-AL and more are welcome for subsequent competitions. Dr. Conte emphasizes, “The main goal is including pretty much everybody who wants to [compete]… The more you put into it, the more you get out of it.”
With teams being notified on their selection status March 30th, 2020, the team remains highly optimistic about the possibility of continuing along in the competition and ultimately being able to present at conference.
Students interested in competing in NASA RASC-AL in the future are invited to reach out to Dr. Conte at [firstname.lastname@example.org].