Vertical Flight Foundation Scholarships

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Nathan Tappendorf

Arizona State University

At Arizona State University, Nathan Tappendorf focused his coursework and research on aircraft structures, working in areas like fatigue and fracture as well as nonlinear finite element analysis (FEA). He worked with a professor to write nonlinear FE codes for several material models, primarily using 2D elements as “simple” test cases that could later be scaled to full 3D capability.

Nathan graduated with a M.S. in mechanical engineering from Arizona State University in May 2017, and has been working at the Boeing Company as a structural analysis engineer since.

How did you get interested in vertical flight?

"I have been fascinated by airplanes and helicopters since I was a little kid, and my interest has continued ever since then. I remember watching hummingbirds at our feeder while in middle school, and trying to learn as much about bird flight as I could (of course, without the knowledge of engineering or advanced mathematics), as I was captivated by the hummingbird’s ability to hover and fly in whatever direction it wanted. This thirst for knowledge and continued interest in STEM topics led me to pursue a mechanical engineering degree in college so I could work on creating human machines that could accomplish similarly impressive feats. Since graduating from college, I have been blessed with the opportunity to work on both helicopters and space vehicles, advancing human transportation as we know it in the 21st century."

What impact has receiving the VFF scholarship had for you?

"Receiving the Vertical Flight Foundation scholarship was a milestone in my academic journey. I am truly honored to have received the VFF scholarship and the accomplishment that represents in the vertical flight community. Receiving the scholarship gave me a sense of pride that my hard work was being recognized, and it spurred me on to continue diligence in my master’s degree studies. The VFF award was also a big financial help as I paid my way through college with a combination of scholarships and part-time jobs. I am grateful to AHS and the VFF scholarship for helping me pay for part of my education. I have attended meetings of my local AHS chapter and was very fortunate to attend Forum 72 in West Palm Beach, Florida. Going to the forum for the first time was an eye-opener to all the advances in our exciting industry, especially those outside my focus on aircraft structures."

What are some of your current projects or research interests?

"I am currently working a short term assignment in Huntsville, Alabama on the Space Launch System (SLS) team. The SLS is NASA’s heavy-lift launch vehicle designed to lift 70 tons of payload to low earth orbit. My work is concerned primarily with analyzing how components respond to the vibroacoustic environments of the rocket, developing load factors to encompass the environments seen during liftoff and ascent. Prior to my transfer to Huntsville, I worked in Mesa, Arizona on Boeing’s commercial crew capsule, the CST-100, and the Joint Multi-Role helicopter. My assignment on JMR was very rewarding as I helped work through the manufacturing issues associated with a coaxial rotor, the bearing press fits involved, and the loads and stresses involved in that operation. I am proud of the work I have done so far, and look forward to many years ahead where I can advance the boundaries of aerospace technology."

Tell us about your future plans.

"Someday soon, I hope to get some of my work cleared through the intellectual property group at Boeing so I can present at a future AHS Forum and contribute my ideas to the technical community."

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