Tech Connect Connects Student Aerospace Organization with AFRL Mentorship > Air Force Materiel Command > Article View

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, OHIO (AFRL) – Penn Jet Propulsion, a student aerospace club in University of Pennsylvania recently secured subject matter expert support and mentorship from the Air Force Research Laboratory Aerospace Systems Branch Aerospace Propulsion Awareness Program (APOP).

Air Force and Space Force Tech Connect facilitated the connection between the Penn Jet Propulsion team and the technical support team for APOP. On behalf of the Department of the Air Force, the AFRL has developed the Air Force and Space Force Tech Connect, a service to connect potential partners with science and technology experts and opportunities.

Penn Jet Propulsion is Penn’s premier aerospace organization focused on jet propulsion technologies. It is currently a team of 20 passionate students from various fields ranging from mechanical engineering to international relations and finance. “Our original goal of building our own jet engine turned into so much more as we used our school’s most advanced manufacturing techniques and recruited students with exciting new ideas,” said David Nemeth, Co-Chair of Penn Jet Propulsion.

After nearly two years of work from the first CAD model, the team successfully built an engine in Penn’s machine shop and hoped to test their engine safely in a test containment vessel. However, while the university was willing to allow them to complete the engine, the group was prohibited from working with fuel without further support and mentorship. “The university was hesitant to allow a group of students to run fuel through a jet engine because there were no experienced faculty in the field who were prepared to take responsibility for the critical process,” he said. Nemeth. Faced with this obstacle on the way to their lofty goal, the team began looking for solutions.

Through his research of other college teams working on jet engines, Nemeth discovered that the AFRL works with colleges to provide them with a place to test their projects. In fact, several schools have received awards from the AFRL Aerospace Systems Branch through APOP. Having found a potential solution to his team’s problem, Nemeth began looking for ways to join APOP and access mentorship in building his own engine. A quick internet search led him to the Air Force and Space Force Tech Connect website where he used the “Share an Idea” link to submit information about his group’s accomplishments and support needs.

When he submitted the form, Nemeth hoped his message would reach someone with experience working with college teams. “It was a bit of a shot in the dark, but I was happy to see that my idea had been heard and carefully considered by people rather than an algorithm, and I was quickly put in touch with many help,” Nemeth said.

Joshua Laravie, AFRL’s Aerospace Systems Branch Technology Transfer Specialist, National Alliance Program Manager and member of the Tech Connect team, provided the final link between Nemeth’s submission and the laboratory of small engine research management and APOP technical support team members 1st Lt. Kavi Muraleetharan and 2nd Lt. James Mostek, both research engineers. “The connection was exactly what our team was looking for…we explored other universities that would be interested in expanding the current 12 varsity teams (small turbine engines) that we have,” Muraleetharan said. He also added: “This submission had the potential to broaden our knowledge and educate another group of potential future AFRL recruits. This will result in increased knowledge of the uses of small turbine engines (i.e. modifications to increase performance to extend operability) and new hires from our prestigious university outreach program said Murleetharan.

Sharing a similar experience working with Tech Connect, Nemeth said, “The Tech Connect website was easy to navigate and I found the ‘Share an Idea’ submission form very easy. They were very receptive to our ideas and even asked us to present slides for a group of AFRL team members. This network can be hard to find on the surface, but everyone we spoke to was helpful, open to ideas and eager to share their expertise. I encourage everyone in our position to get in touch with the AFRL!

Penn Jet Propulsion Group intends to continue to leverage its new relationship with the AFRL to discuss testing with the school’s safety team and future plans to safely test their engine. They hope to be the basis of a network that gives them visibility with aerospace organizations and professionals. They believe that their brilliant team of engineers will become huge assets for the future development of aerospace and a partnership with AFRL will allow them to pursue their goals.

About the AFRL

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is the principal scientific research and development center of the Department of the Air Force. The AFRL plays a critical role in the discovery, development and integration of affordable combat technologies for our air, space and cyberspace force. With a staff of more than 11,000 people in nine technology areas and 40 other operations around the world, AFRL offers a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from basic research to advanced research and technology development. For more information visit:

About Air Force and Space Force Tech Connect

The Air Force and Space Force Tech Connect website provides access to current open opportunities, meetup events, other Department of the Air Force science and technology business connectors, and a way for anyone to share an idea. . The Tech Connect team, comprised of AFRL personnel, connects relevant, quality ideas/technology with subject matter experts from the Department of the Air Force. The team will review ideas/inquiries, provide feedback on innovative ideas, and establish dialogue with potentially interested Air Force and Space Force programs. For more information visit:

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