AAE student wins AIAA best paper

Louis Villa's paper was chosen as the first-place winner in the Region III undergraduate category from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) 2020 Regional Student Conference.

An AAE student won best paper in the Region III undergraduate category from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) 2020 Regional Student Conference.

Villa
Louis Villa

Louis Villa, who earned his bachelor’s from AAE in May, won for the paper, “Genetic Optimization Algorithms for Supersonic Heat Addition.”

Historically, students present research in-person and are judged on technical content and clarity of communication by professional members from industry at the conference. In 2020, students were judged solely on the merits of their papers because in-person conferences were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Villa’s paper uses genetic algorithms, a type of machine learning that has been heavily employed to solve complex optimization problems, to find the optimal design for supersonic combustors. The work is based on course material from AAE537 (“Hypersonic Propulsion”), taught by Professor Stephen Heister, and is meant for use in hypersonic vehicles, where heat addition into a combustor has the possibility of thermally choking the flow. The tool developed in the paper is meant for use in early design of hypersonic systems.

“It was incredibly rewarding to explore a topic introduced in my course work for an extended period of time as it allowed me to have a deeper understanding of implementation and applications,” said Villa, now a graduate student working at Maurice J. Zucrow Laboratories as a research assistant for AAE Professor Timothee Pourpoint.

“Being recognized for the time that I put into this project was a very meaningful capstone as I ended my undergraduate degree at Purdue.”

As a first-place category winner, Villa is invited to attend and present his paper at the AIAA International Student Conference, held in conjunction with the 2021 AIAA SciTech Forum, Jan. 11-15 in Nashville.

In the Region III master’s category, the AAE team of Aaron Afriat and Sandeep Baskar won third place for a paper titled “Atmospheric Breathing Ramjet for Martian Descent Missions.”