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USRI team members (from left): Ben Loh, Meghana Fathepure, Daniel Tikalsky, Nicco Wang, Omar Abouzahr and Alex Booker

USRI students design flyer for NASA mission

Friday, September 17, 2021

Media Contact: Harrison Hill | Research Communications Specialist | 405-744-5827 |

Five college students at Oklahoma State University’s Unmanned Systems Research Institute (USRI) are giving NASA the ability to reach new heights and create new technologies for the future.

The students, part of the Drone Scholars Program, are continuing their high school internship program, which was started over three years ago. The Drone Scholar Program is funded by Boeing.

The project the students have completed is being used as a technology demonstrator for the Mars flyer concept. OSU’s design, the TIE Flyer, or Twin Inflatable Electric Flyer, is based on the Mars Electric Flyer concept developed by NASA scientists at Langley Research Center.

“Seeing our first concept fly was very surreal to me,” said Alex Booker, a mechanical and aerospace engineering major at OSU. “That was a huge milestone for us.”

“Last summer, we all worked on the Mars flyer together,” said Omar Abouzahr, a mechanical and aerospace engineering major at OSU. “It was a really good experience. However, this summer, we are working on different projects.”

Currently, the students are working on solar balloon-type projects. Some of the students will also be working with graduate students to complete their research.

The Drone Scholars program offers the students the ability to gain experience in different research fields during high school and college, as well as the ability to work with NASA and other companies on different projects and research.

“Being able to get hands-on experience in an engineering environment has been the best thing that I have done through this program,” Wang said. “It was very fun to get to meet new people and work together with them to reach a goal.”

“When we are in class, we are learning about things like math and science,” Fathepure said. “However, when we come into the internship, we not only get to apply what we have learned in class but also gain the hands-on experience we need to be successful. We get to see the things we have done come to life. It’s very cool to be able to put the puzzle pieces together between school and here.”

Photos By: Jamey Jacob

Story By: Kaitlyn Mires |

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