Aerospace Engineering at Illinois alumnus Braven Leung has been recognized by Aviation Week & Space Technology as one of “20 Outstanding Students Emerging as Aerospace Leaders.”
Leung, BS 14, now a graduate student at Georgia Institute of Technology, was among those selected by Aviation Week and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) in collaboration with worldwide universities to identify emerging leaders among undergraduate and master’s degree students. According to the online magazine, “the panel of judges looked for what sets the mark in a student they would want to hire: a fire for digging deeper and working harder to discover something new, and an interest and concern about the world beyond their studies.”
The recent recognition also took note of students who led community service and outreach programs. “Many of us are promoters of STEM education, especially to the younger generation of kids since it’s important to get them interested and excited in math and science,” Leung said of those chosen for the honor.
After identifying the students, the project’s organizers then asked the students to name what they believe to be the grandest aerospace challenges. Among their answers were deep-space exploration and interplanetary travel. Those were key interests of Leung’s during his time at Illinois. He played important roles in several team competitions to design manned missions to Mars.
Leung led the Illinois Space Society 2013 effort to compete in the National Institute of Aerospace (NIA) Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concepts Academic Linkage (RASC-AL) program. The Illinois team nabbed third place for better designs of space suits, radiation shielding and a biomass chamber to accommodate humans. The team also was invited to present the project in 2014 at the SpaceOps 13th International Conference on Space Operations, held to address state-of-the-art operations principles, methods and tools.
Leung also co-led the Illini Mars Mission for the Opportunity to Revitalize The American Legacy (IMMORTAL) team that took third place nationally in a Mars flyby competition of the 17th Annual International Mars Society Convention in 2014. The contest required competitors to design a safe, inexpensive, and simple two-person flyby of Mars for the year 2018. The IMMORTAL plan called for a two-launch mission, as no one existing vehicle can carry enough mass to support humans on such a long journey.
Leung involvement in outreach was visible through his work with the Illinois Robotics in Space student group’s project for the NASA Lunabotics Mining Competition, and as a space camp volunteer at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
As part of the Lunabotics challenge, Leung traveled to Champaign-Urbana area middle schools and high schools to present the robotics project and promote STEM among the younger students. He helped present live interactive demonstrations with hobby robotic rovers, quadcopters, Arduino projects and LEGO Mindstorms design and build, as well as volunteered as a judge for the FIRST robotics competition. In Huntsville, he directed young campers in mission simulations, rocket building workshops and team bonding exercises.
In recognition of his outstanding extracurricular contributions and scholarship at Illinois, Leung was recognized with AE’s Dale Margerum Memorial Award, and received the NASA SpaceOps Student Award for technical and scientific excellence.
Now at Georgia Tech, Leung focuses his graduate research on the Federal Aviation Administration’s Continuous Lower Emissions, Energy and Noise Program. He holds a National Defense Science Engineering Graduate Fellowship.
Leung worked as a consultant intern for Booz Allen Hamilton and as a flight systems avionics intern for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He also interned as a systems engineer for Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems; as a Dragon Flight Systems intern for SpaceX, as a a Robotics Academy intern for NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, and as a Student Airborne Research Program intern at NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center.
Leung traveled to the AIAA 60th annual Laureates Dinner in Washington, D.C., this month to accept the honor. “These past few weeks have been a refreshing reminder of those who have been a huge support along the way, including my aerospace family here at Illinois,” he said. “I can't wait to see where our paths will take us, and am looking forward to being a part of this exciting future.”