Vertical Flight Foundation Scholarships

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Jackson A. Morris

University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa

In the summer 2016, Jackson Morris graduated from the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa with a BS in Aerospace Engineering. He stayed at UA Tuscaloosa to pursue a master's degree. Jackson won the VFF scholarship twice: once as an undergraduate, and more recently as a masters' student. His interest in aviation and vertical flight originally stemmed from his grandfather, who served in the Navy on aircraft carriers during WWII. Ever since he was very little, he has been keenly interested in anything related to aviation. He first expressed interest in becoming a commercial pilot, then an air-traffic controller. He decided eventually that he wished to design aircraft himself, and began studying to become an aerospace engineer. He has worked for Boeing during the past two summers. During summer 2014, he was a Quality Specialist Intern at the Boeing Dreamliner assembly facility in North Charleston, SC. During summer 2015, he worked as a Manufacturing & Process Engineer Intern in Everett, WA, on Boeing’s Fuselage Automated Upright Build project. He found his experiences in the industry incredible; it proved to himself that he was in the right field, as every day he spent working with aircraft was a joy.

At Tuscaloosa, he participated in undergraduate research concerning the aeroelasticity of dynamic beam structures. He was a member of UA’s Design/Build/Fly project, which they entered in the national design competition in 2016. He is a proud member of Sigma Gamma Tau. Through SGT, he acts as an ambassador on campus to prospective aerospace students, offering tours and demonstrations of our work. Since he first enrolled at UA, the aerospace program has nearly doubled in size thanks to focus of the university to expand the engineering programs. He is incredibly proud to act as a representative of the VFF at the University of Alabama, as well as act as a representative for the next generation of UA graduates in the aerospace industry.

Outside of his studies, Jackson acts in an amateur theatre troupe and performs in the Huxford Symphony Orchestra as a classical bassist.

How did you get interested in vertical flight?

"Helicopters have always been such a fascinating subject for me. When I came to university, I had the pleasure of taking a class on micro air vehicles, and joined a team that conducted quadcopter experiments. My work with vertical flight technologies is limited, but I aim to be more involved in the field as I continue my studies. I’m particularly fascinated by the amazing, unconventional configurations that enable the vertical flight field to continue to change as time goes on. It’s undoubtable that advances in rotorcraft technology will be key in allowing new, efficient uses in aviation for humanity."

What impact has receiving the VFF scholarship had for you?

"I learned about the VFF scholarship through the Redstone Chapter of the AHS. I first received an AHS scholarship in 2013, and at that time was only a sophomore at the University of Alabama. The AHS-Redstone scholarship offered direct mentorships arranged through its chapter members. Mr. Raymond Handy, the AHS Scholarship Coordinator at that time, was able to put me in direct contact with Mr. John Schibler, who is Boeing’s Chief Engineer of their global Attack Helicopter program! I will be forever grateful for the opportunity this AHS scholarship provided me. In subsequent years, the AHS-Redstone scholarship coordinators suggested that I consider applying for the VFF scholarship (as well as applying for the local chapter AHS scholarships), since I now had additional university research and internship experience.

I’m incredibly honored to be the recipient of a VFF scholarship. The financial assistance has allowed me to graduate with as little debt as possible, but I am also incredibly grateful for the industry exposure that the American Helicopter Society has provided. I know the opportunities I have had were greatly assisted by the recognition I have received from the AHS.

Furthermore, a relatively new professor at the University of Alabama, Dr. Jinwei Shen, an active AHS member, was brought to UA in 2013. He is my current professor for my senior seminar and flight dynamics classes. So I feel that my connections with AHS are real ones. Lastly, and probably most importantly, I feel that the connections I can make in the aviation industry, thanks to these scholarships and my AHS membership, allow me to call upon any AHS member for advice, whenever I might need it."

Tell us about your future plans.

"I plan to return to the aerospace industry. I love working with aircraft of any kind, and hope to work designing and testing new aircraft and rotorcraft technologies. I also aim to obtain my Master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering; currently I’m deciding between completing mine immediately after university or getting more involved with the industry first."

2017 Update: Jackson is now a MS student at UA Tuscaloosa.

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