Third annual Huntsville research showcase highlights innovations in space exploration

Published: Mar 28, 2024 8:55 AM

By Karen Hunley

The Samuel Ginn College of Engineering held its annual Graduate Engineering Research Showcase on Tuesday, March 26, at the Auburn University Research and Innovation Campus in Huntsville.  

This year’s showcase theme was “Pursuing the Space Frontier,” with nearly 40 graduate students presenting research posters related to space technology and exploration to members of the Huntsville engineering community and Auburn Engineering alumni.

“This showcase is a way to highlight the cutting edge, life-changing research being conducted by our students as well as introduce new engineering students into the culture of our programs,” said Maria Auad, Auburn Engineering associate dean for graduate students and faculty development.

Joseph Pelfrey, director the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center and 2000 Auburn aerospace engineering alum, gave the keynote address to kick off the event.   

“The partnerships we have with Auburn are critical to the work we’re doing in advancing our goals as a nation to return humans to the moon and to Mars,” Pelfrey said. “The Artemis era is here, and with that deep legacy at Auburn and those partnerships, I’m excited about the future.”  

Pelfrey referenced Artemis I, which began a series of ambitious space missions in August 2022 and is powered in large part by the work of Auburn alumni, engineers and researchers.

 The showcase also included a government and industry panel discussion on emerging technologies in space exploration, moderated by Allan David, associate dean of research for Auburn Engineering. Panelists were Todd May, senior vice president of KBR’s Science and Space unit; Frank Turner, technical director of the Space Development Agency; Keith Krapels, director of the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command’s technical center; John Dankanich, chief technologist for the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center and capability lead for NASA in-space transportation; and Steven Wofford, manager of the Space Launch System Block 1B Development Office at the Marshall Space Flight Center.

Following the panel, attendees were invited to browse the posters and talk with students. Poster categories included propulsion and rocket technology, robotics and automation, materials science and manufacturing processes, electronics and instrumentation, and navigation and communication systems. 

Invited faculty presentations also took place during the poster session. Auburn Engineering aerospace department chair Brian Thurow led with his presentation, “Auburn Space: A Partnership for Innovation, Research and Education (ASPIRE).”  

“We hope attendees leave this event with a better understanding and appreciation of the dynamic research being conducted at the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering by both students and faculty, which will assist agencies such as NASA in putting people back on the moon and beyond,” Auad said.

Media Contact: Karen Hunley,, 334-844-2224
Joseph Pelfrey stands at the podium to deliver his keynote address.

Joseph Pelfrey, director the NASA Marshall Flight Center, was keynote speaker at the Graduate Engineering Research Showcase in Huntsville on March 26.

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