Aliya Kpamegan

MITRE Intern Keeps it Cool—With Aerospace Research

For Aliya Kpamegan, interning at MITRE reinforces the pull she’s had toward engineering from childhood. This summer Kpamegan put her curiosity and skills to work in our National Security Engineering Center analyzing the effects of temperature changes on military aircraft. Here, the rising junior at MIT tells us what excites her about her work, her future, and her MITRE experience.

A MITRE internship gives me the opportunity for hands-on aerospace experience in a real-world setting. It’s turned out to be the perfect project for me—one that covers thermodynamics, modeling and simulation, and collaboration with experts who share my passion.

I’m working with navigation electronics on military aircraft. In use, these components become very hot, making them hard to operate. In addition, some of the components produce more heat than others, so it’s difficult to regulate the cooling air that’s available. My task is modeling how we can cool those components more efficiently.

Innovation in the Air

My work involves analyzing the thermodynamic behavior of fluid—how air reacts to heat sources and other factors in a given environment. We hope this research will result in better design for aircraft electronics that improves safety and reliability for military aircraft operators.

There’s a set of computing hardware that’s essential to providing a complete picture of the airspace surrounding an aircraft. We observe flow within this equipment to determine the effectiveness of a cooling system. On the aircraft, there are radars and sensors that detect raw data, such as other objects in the airspace. As is, that data isn’t necessarily helpful to operators, so computing cards use the data to create visuals of the environment.

Specifically, we’re developing a design to divert more air to some cards and less to others. The main program we use, Ansys IcePak, lets us experiment with placement of components like heat sources and fans. Running the simulations offers solutions based on temperature and flow velocity.

Passion for Aerospace Takes Flight

I remember the first time I got really excited about engineering. In eighth grade, tasked with building a tower, different groups were given a packet of spaghetti, a single marshmallow, and a piece of string. My group’s tower was the tallest.

I like exploring the unknown and unleashing the creativity that comes with innovation. At MITRE, I’ve seen it in action and became a part of it.

Aliya Kpamegan

Later, in high school, I participated in MIT’s MOSTEC summer program [now MITES], a general introduction to different types of engineering. Building and launching a bottle rocket showed me aerospace engineering in action, and I found my passion.

This past year at MIT, I worked with a team of students for Students for the Exploration and Development of Space, designing small satellites to test MIT-designed electrospray thrusters. These adjust position more precisely than traditional thrusters. While exploring aerospace internships for this summer, I learned about MITRE. With multiple divisions under aviation, I knew I would be exposed to a lot of what the field has to offer.

For Future Engineer, the Sky’s the Limit

The networking and meetups for MITRE interns have been really helpful. But I’d say my closest connections are within my division. From the start, my task leaders were great about onboarding me—they provided an idea of what the team does and my role in the work. It’s fun to see how the excitement spreads across the project team and the improvements we make as we go along.

It’s interesting to think about where my career will take me. From my education and my engineering experiences so far, I’ve come to realize I’m interested in the research side—inventing as opposed to manufacturing things that already exist.

I like exploring the unknown and unleashing the creativity that comes with innovation. At MITRE, I’ve seen it in action and became a part of it.

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