How the School of Aerospace Engineering fuels the state’s economy.

Monday, 13 November 2023
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The AE School at Georgia Tech's State Impact

In a state of peaches, pecans, and peanuts, aerospace products are Georgia’s No. 1 export. According to the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD) the aerospace industry totaled $9.2 billion in 2021.

Much of that is fueled by the Daniel Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering (AE School), the nation's No. 1 public aerospace engineering programs. 

Since the AE School was established in 1931, the aerospace industry has made huge advancements in materials, propulsion, automation, and space exploration, driving the AE School to evolve and better prepare the next generation of engineers. 

Through a hands-on approach to its curricula, collaboration with industry experts, and conducting innovative research, the AE School has made itself a cornerstone of Georgia’s thriving aerospace industry.

Aligning Courses and Workforces

According to the latest economic report by GDEcD, there are approximately 263,000 aerospace jobs in Georgia. They range from avionics technicians, manufacturing professionals, engineers, and academic professors. Many are held by AE School graduates. In fact, about 30% of the School’s living alumni currently live and work in Georgia, according to the Georgia Tech Alumni Association.

The AE School’s dedication to evolving its curricula has allowed its world-renowned professors to propel students and research initiatives. This strategy, combined with access to innovative labs, has equipped graduates with the skills and expertise to not only make them successful in their careers, but leaders in their fields.

"Over my 18-year tenure at Georgia Tech, it has been nothing short of awe-inspiring to witness the transformation aerospace has had at Tech and across Georgia. The aerospace research and technology developed here have a far-reaching impact on industries beyond aerospace itself,” said Tim Lieuwen, AE School professor and interim chair. “Aerospace impacts communications, healthcare, entertainment, transportation, agriculture and so many other industries that have shaped the modern world and improved the quality of life for not only Georgians, but people around the world.”

Today’s AE School graduates typically seek positions in one of the three aerospace domains: fixed-wing, space, or rotorcraft, but the courses and industry have advanced to include an array of multidisciplinary and specialty areas, making aerospace one of the most popular majors at Georgia Tech.

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students in the AE1601 course launch hobby rockets

Students in the AE1601:Intro to Aerospace Engineering course design hobby rockets and launch on campus. 

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AE student Cameron Eure, proudly poses next to the iconic NASA logo during his summer internship at NASA

AE student Cameron Eure, proudly poses next to the iconic NASA logo during his summer internship at NASA Ames Research Center. 

Driven by Innovation

Georgia Tech boasts the state’s largest aerospace engineering program in the state with about 1,800 students. The AE School annually graduates between 250 - 350 bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral engineers.

Georgia’s leading aerospace companies such as Airbus, Delta Air Lines, Gulfstream, Lockheed Martin, Northrup Grumman, Pratt & Whitney, and Raytheon know this and have attended the AE School Career Fair in the hopes of matching their company needs with talented AE School students. The Fall 2023 AE School Career Fair hosted 36 aerospace companies and welcomed more than 738 aerospace students.

“Every year, the AE School Career Fair grows in terms of employer and student attendance, as well as in the connections our students are making. Companies intentionally seek out our students for internships and full-time positions, and it’s a testament to the quality education they are receiving at Tech,” said Lydia Pendleton, AE School corporate relations manager.

Pendleton manages the Corporate Affiliates Program (CAP) which invites innovative aerospace companies to campus to meet with students and participate in career development events, like the AE School Career Fair, resume reviews, guest seminars, and more.  

“Employers were really blown away by the level of hands-on experience our students received from the AE student groups they are members of and the internship and  research opportunities they are exposed to,” said Pendleton.

In 2022, the AE School expended $40 million in sponsored research projects, a $9 million increase from two years prior. These research projects range anywhere from space technology, sustainable energy, robotics, human factors, to hypersonics. 

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Aerospace engineering students talk with recruiters during the latest AE School Career Fair

Hundred of aerospace students crowded the Exhibition Hall in the hopes of talking to their future employers. 

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Aerospace engineering students talk with recruiters during the latest AE School Career Fair

Aerospace engineering students met with recruiters
during the half-day AE School Career Fair held September 20, 2023. 

(Start) Up, Up, and Away

Hermeus, a Georgia startup company developing a Mach 5 aircraft, has roots that started at Georgia Tech. Their mission is to connect people faster and bring much-needed innovation to the commercial flight industry.

“While the idea to start Hermeus came years later, the foundation of my professional and academic education at Tech is what set me on this path,” said Hermeus Co-founder and CEO, A.J. Piplica BSAE 2010, MSAE 2012.

Through a co-op with Jacobs Technologies at NASA Johnson Space Center, a high-speed aerodynamics class with Professor Stephen Ruffin, and an internship with SpaceWorks Enterprises, Piplica was destined for speed.

Today, Hermeus employs about 30 Yellow Jackets in Atlanta, a number Piplica is proud to share, with the hopes of increasing that number as they continue to develop hypersonic aircraft. One of those Yellow Jackets is Hermeus’ Principal Flight Test Engineer Chris Maston, B.S.A.E. 2004. He manages multiple projects including building the Darkhorse aircraft, making the test and safety plans, and orchestrating the shipment and logistics to get everything to the test site.

Maston said his decision to apply to Tech happened after one of his father’s colleagues told him, “If your son wants to be an engineer, he needs to go to Georgia Tech - they make real engineers.” The Pennsylvania native soon moved to Atlanta and was enrolled in the AE School’s first space design class. It was taught by Professor John Olds, who later ventured into the world of startups with his own company, SpaceWorks, which is also headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia.

“It was a lot of fun, and the class was a new area,” Maston shared. “Dr. Olds was a great, real-world professor who taught a systems approach to everything, which I used throughout my military career as I got into testing and acquisitions.

After 12 years of active Air Force duty, Maston found his way back to Georgia Tech, in a research role with Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI). There, he worked on Department of Defense projects, helping with tests and evaluation strategies for the U.S. Air Force and Army before finding his way to Hermeus. 

“Georgia Tech is known for being tough, but that’s how you know you’re good. That’s how you know you’re a top engineer and the AE School gets you there,” said Maston.

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Hermeus A.J. Piplica, Georgia Tech Aerospace Engineering graduate

A.J. Piplica
BSAE 2010, MSAE 2012

Photo: Hermeus

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Hermeus' Dark Horse vehicle on a runway

Hermeus' Darkhorse Aircraft
Photo: Hermeus

Exploring the Future

Space, autonomous vehicles, and sustainable aviation have exciting new prospects and opportunities to explore. The AE School has embarked on an expansive journey by introducing an array of new courses, specialized fields, and future facilities to cater to both industry demands and institutional growth. 

For example, the recently renovated Mission Operations Center (MOC) took center stage during NASA’s Lunar Flashlight Mission in 2022-2023. AE School students in the MOC served as mission control for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) for the mission to the moon. When the mission was completed this summer, JPL transferred ownership of the spacecraft to Georgia Tech, making it the only higher education institution in full control of an interplanetary spacecraft – a designation typically reserved for NASA or foreign governments.  

Soon, the AE School will break ground on a new 10,000 sq. foot aircraft hangar to design, build, and house small sustainable aviation research initiatives. The project is in the final design stages, with construction planned for late-Spring 2024.

The AE School’s most ambitious project yet will be inaugurating a $220 million cutting-edge facility to drive the school to even greater heights. This substantial investment will lay the foundation for a state-of-the-art facility and hub to shape the next 100 years of aerospace excellence. Building space for the AE School’s instruction, research, and community is its biggest mission yet.

It's a journey that requires collective dedication and a belief that, through our combined efforts, we can create something meaningful and transformative. 

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conceptual design of what the new AE School hangar will look like.

Engineers will design, build, and house sustainable aviation in the new hangar. 

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conceptual design of what the next aerospace engineering facility may look like.

Conceptual design of what the next AE School facility may look like. Subject to change. 

Related: 

AE School Case Statement

Learn how your generosity can impact the future of aerospace engineering at Georgia Tech for years to come. 

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