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Undergraduate Demonstration of a Hall Effect Thruster: Self-Directed Learning in an Advanced Project Context

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Conference

2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access

Location

Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Aerospace Design and Manufacturing (Student Papers)

Tagged Division

Aerospace

Page Count

21

DOI

10.18260/1-2--35409

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/35409

Download Count

605

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Paper Authors

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Braden K. Oh Olin College of Engineering

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Braden Oh is a second-year mechanical engineering student at Olin College of Engineering with an interest in space technology. Previous work of his has included CubeSat systems engineering through the NASA CubeQuest Challenge and software systems verification and validation for the Perseverance Mars rover at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

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Justin Haruaki Kunimune Olin College of Engineering Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0001-7076-5891

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Justin Kunimune (/ˈdʒʌstɪn kunɪˈmuneɪ/) is a nuclear engineering student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who recently graduated from the Olin College of Engineering. He is professionally interested in nuclear fusion energy. He is hobbially interested in map projections, language construction, and historical cosmological models.

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Jonah Spicher Olin College of Engineering

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As a third year electrical engineering student at Olin College of Engineering Jonah Spicher is interested in space propulsion methods and advancing engineering education.

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Lauren Anfenson Olin College of Engineering

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I'm a current undergraduate at Olin College pursuing a degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering. Previous electrical hardware intern with NASA JPL and Microsoft, current Sketch Model Fellow with the Massachusetts Museum of American Bird Art.

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Rebecca Christianson Draper Labs

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Abstract

Here we demonstrate a self-directed project for undergraduate students that uses the design of a Hall effect thruster as a way to introduce fundamental physics concepts in lieu of traditional coursework. The Hall effect thruster (HET) is a type of electric propulsion engine. It uses orthogonal magnetic and electric fields to create a plasma that ionizes a propellant, which is then accelerated by a strong electric field to create thrust. The HET is used for many modern space applications, from station-keeping on small satellites to long-term travel to faraway asteroids. Electric propulsion, and specifically the HET, integrates many concepts that are fundamental in an undergraduate education such as electricity and magnetism, material properties, thermal analysis, and laboratory experiment. However, the HET is rarely studied below the graduate level. As such, we present a path of feasibility for an undergraduate electric propulsion project building a small, low-power HET, both as a novel vehicle for engaging with introductory physics concepts and as a case study of an advanced self-directed project at the undergraduate level. In this paper we detail our process for developing a fundamental understanding of electric propulsion and demonstrate how to apply that learning to the design, manufacture, and test-fire of a small, low-power HET. Participants learned principles of E&M by modeling the magnetic field and channel, material properties and thermal analysis by designing the thruster components, and laboratory experiment by testing the thruster. We were able to complete this project with limited resources and within a single academic semester; to accommodate the constraints of integrating this project into undergraduate coursework, our HET was built with under $600 and using machinery found in a standard machine shop. Whereas typically, a central concern in project based learning is ensuring a student begins a project with most of the skills needed to complete it, this paper outlines an extreme counterexample. We demonstrate that by taking advantage of student motivation, projects requiring skill sets far beyond those possessed by students at the beginning of the project can be both feasible and highly educational.

Oh, B. K., & Kunimune, J. H., & Spicher, J., & Anfenson, L., & Christianson, R. (2020, June), Undergraduate Demonstration of a Hall Effect Thruster: Self-Directed Learning in an Advanced Project Context Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35409

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