CEAS Aerospace Engineering Students Awarded Best Presentation at AIAA/ASME DESS

By: Ashley Duvelius

CEAS students, Cody Lafountain and Sophia Mitchell, awarded Best Presentation at the 7th Annual Dayton Engineering Sciences Symposium.

Two outstanding CEAS students were awarded Best Presentation at the 7th Annual Dayton Engineering Sciences Symposium. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Dayton Section presented Cody Lafountain and Sophia Mitchell with award plaques at the AIAA/ASME Awards Banquet held on May 24, 2012, at the University of Dayton. Lafountain won best presentation in the category of CFD/Fluid Mechanics and Mitchell won in Undergraduate Research.


Pre-junior, aerospace engineering and ACCEND student, Sophia Mitchell, has been reaching for the stars since age 6. She had always aspired to be an astronaut and grew to love anything related to space. Prior to studying aerospace engineering at UC, Mitchell conducted research in a few space-related areas. That’s when she realized she’s more interested in the robotics side of aerospace.

Mitchell was also drawn to UC by its extensive co-op program. She believes that by placing students into co-op positions early in their college career allows them to grow as an engineer, a professional and as a person. Mitchell was also impressed by UC’s accessibility of research for undergraduate students. She had participated in research throughout her high school years and was not looking to take a break from it in her early college career. Additionally, Mitchell admired UC for being named by Forbes Magazine as one of the world's most beautiful college campuses.

Fuzzy logic is the focus of Mitchell’s research. She explains, “Fuzzy logic is programming robots to reason linguistically as humans do. In normal binary logic, things are either one or zero; ‘yes’ or ‘no’. As humans, we can easily recognize that this is not how nature really is, as there are numbers between one and zero and sometimes the answer is ‘maybe’. The world is fuzzy and we should accept this fact.”

As there is an increasing dependence on technology, there is a demand for more intelligent systems, like digital cameras that automatically adjust to light, motion and distance. Mitchell works to make these intelligent fuzzy systems able to collaborate with both each other and humans, which opens the door to incredible developments in robotics. These systems are called fuzzy collaborative robotics. The implications of fuzzy collaborative robotics range from personal, live-in robots that can aid the elderly to robots with applications in wide-scale areas such as disaster relief, homeland security, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), space applications and celestial body exploration.

Mitchell reflects, “This award is meaningful to me, as it is my first conference research award in college. It’s always great to feel like your hard work is noticed and it's very motivational for future endeavors.”

She plans to continue her research in the realm of fuzzy logic and fuzzy collaborative robotics. Mitchell will graduate from the aerospace engineering and ACCEND program with a BS and MS in aerospace engineering. Her next co-op rotation is with NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. A PhD will likely follow, and perhaps, one day, Mitchell will go into space along with her mechanical marvels.


Aerospace engineering graduate student, Cody Lafountain, chose UC for its renowned cooperative education program. His first co-op experience was with his advisor, Kelly Cohen, PhD and CEAS associate professor. Lafountain enjoyed it so much that he continued on to earn his master’s degree.

Lafountain currently researches the development of a graphical software tool for Proper Orthogonal Decomposition (POD) for his thesis work. It is a linear algebra based method for decomposing complex systems into separate temporal and spatial behaviors to study structures and energy transfer and to produce a basis for low-order system models.

Lafountain works closely with Cohen and has been for the past four years. He was led to his current field by a confluence of good opportunities and an interest in accepting new challenges. Lafountain hopes his research will one day be applied to a variety of problems, such as reducing vibration in supersonic bomb bays, removing smoke from video to help keep firefighters safe and the possibility of analyzing bio-mechanics.

“To me, this award is confirmation that my continuing work over the years to become a better presenter has been successful. It's always nice to be recognized for your work,” he says.

Lafountain graduates with his master’s degree in June. He has accepted an engineering position at CDI Aerospace Corporation where he will contnue to be involved in research and development in the aerospace industry.

Lafountain and Mitchell’s outstanding achievements keep UC’s reputation for excellence soaring!

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