Asee peer logo

Enhancements to a Propulsion Demonstrator

Download Paper |


2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Instrumentation Technical Session I

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

23.528.1 - 23.528.12



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Rafic Bachnak Texas A&M International University

visit author page

Dr. Bachnak is professor and chair of the Department of Engineering, Mathematics, and Physics at Texas A&M International University (TAMIU). He received his B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in Electrical Engineering from Ohio University in 1983, 1984, and 1989, respectively. Prior to joining TAMIU in 2007, Dr. Bachnak was on the faculty of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Northwestern State University, and Franklin University. His experience includes several fellowships with NASA and the US Navy Laboratories and employment with Koch Industries. Dr. Bachnak is a registered Professional Engineer in the State of Texas, a senior member of IEEE and ISA, and a member of ASEE. During the 2009-2010 academic year, he was a Fulbright Scholar at Notre Dame University, Lebanon.

visit author page


Sofía Carolina Maldonado Texas A&M International University

visit author page

Sofía Carolina Maldonado is a graduate student at Texas A&M International University (TAMIU), currently completing a M.S. in Information Systems. She obtained her B.S. degree in Systems Engineering from the same University in Fall 2011. Sofía was a Distinguished Student Scholar and Student respondent at the Fall 2011 Commencement Ceremony. Throughout her TAMIU education, she has been a member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society and Vice-President and Treasurer of the Society of Engineering at TAMIU. In addition, Sofía was a Research Assistant for the project “Topography of an Object: Detection and Display (Software and Hardware)” and was team leader of the Engineering Senior Project Design entitled “New Classroom Propulsion Demonstrator.”

visit author page


Fernando Garcia Gonzalez Texas A&M International University

visit author page

Dr. Fernando Gonzalez is an Assistant Professor in the Engineering Math and Physics Department at Texas A&M International University in Laredo, Texas. He is currently involved in implementing a new undergraduate Systems Engineering degree program which includes selecting the curriculum for the program, designing new labs, selecting new equipment for these labs, hiring new faculty, work towards ABET accreditation, and student recruitment. Dr. Gonzalez graduated from the University of Illinois in 1997 with a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering. He received his Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering and his Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from Florida International University in 1992 and 1989. Dr. Gonzalez research interest includes the intelligent control of large scale autonomous systems, autonomous vehicles, discrete-event modeling and simulation and human signature verification. After his graduation he spent nine years as a faculty member in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department of the University of Central Florida. Before joining Texas A&M International University he was a Researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education is vital to Americancompetitiveness, yet relatively few students in the USA obtain a STEM bachelor’s degree. While thenumber of degrees awarded in the STEM fields increased modestly from 2003 to 2007, only 15.6 percentof bachelor’s degrees were awarded in these fields. Meanwhile, China awarded nearly half of its firstuniversity degrees in STEM fields (46.7 percent); South Korea awarded 37.8 percent; and Germanyawarded 28.1 percent.10-year employment projections by the U.S. Department of Labor show that of the 20 fastestgrowing occupations projected for 2014, 15 of them require significant mathematics or sciencepreparation. The Propulsion Demonstrator is a device developed by a NASA team to simulatethe behavior of a rocket during propulsion. The main purpose of this apparatus is to raiseawareness in STEM education.The operation of the original system is manual and collection and display of useful data is notpossible. The objective of this project is to develop a flexible and more efficient device that isoperated and controlled by an operator via a computer. The device can be assembled in less thanfive minutes prior to demonstration and acquires and displays useful data in real time. The teamhas built a basic functional unit that allows experimentation with a variety of expansion options.The redesigned system consists of the following major components: (1) a computer-controlledignition phase; (2) a programmable valve that allows control of oxygen flow during the ignitionphase and throughout the demonstration phases; (3) Temperature and pressure sensors inside therocket chamber to monitor the behavior of the system and allow computation of resulting thrust;and (4) a data acquisition board that allows temperature and pressure measurement, control ofthe valve, and monitoring the ignition process. The system is fully controlled by software viapush buttons in a LabVIEW programming environment.This paper documents the major components that were upgraded, including software, ignitionsystem, mass flow controller (valve), pressure sensor, temperature sensor, and a Data AcquisitionBoard (DAQ). The new device reduces the manual work, is user friendly, and provides accuratedata and measurements.

Bachnak, R., & Maldonado, S. C., & Gonzalez, F. G. (2013, June), Enhancements to a Propulsion Demonstrator Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19542

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2013 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015