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The Vanderbilt Aerospace Design Laboratory (VADL) was founded in 2007 by Professor Amrutur Anilkumar to meet the emerging needs of Vanderbilt engineering students to pursue unique careers and advanced studies in Aerospace Engineering. The main agenda of the lab is to design novel, rocket-flyable payload systems that highlight major challenges in space exploration and novel technologies as applicable to the aerospace sector.

VADL’s membership consists of engineering upperclassmen who participate in the Vanderbilt University School of Engineering’s Senior Design Project, graduate students whose research is aligned with aerospace engineering, and select engineering underclassmen with excellent academic performance and a demonstrated interest in aerospace engineering. Vanderbilt students with a passion for educational outreach also contribute to the Vanderbilt Aerospace Design Laboratory’s robust outreach program that works to build STEM enthusiasm in aerospace engineering among middle school and high school students in Tennessee.

The current function of the VADL is to compete in the NASA Student Launch Competition, to present the project results at AIAA Student Conferences, and publish our research in select AIAA journals. VADL also represents the AIAA Student Chapter at Vanderbilt University. 

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Professor Amrutur Anilkumar

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Mark F. Dalton

In the fall of 2021, Mark F. Dalton, JD '75, emeritus trustee and former chair of the Vanderbilt Board of Trust, expressed his interest in the Vanderbilt Aerospace Design Lab. Dalton took time to meet with Dr. Anilkumar and hear directly from the 2021-2022 team about the program's objectives and impact on students. This conversation stuck with Dalton, who took the opportunity to do what Vanderbilt and every academic institution strives to do: provide real-world, interdisciplinary challenges for students to develop their skills beyond the classroom and prepare them for meaningful careers. As a benefactor, he will help the lab expand research opportunities for its undergraduate and graduate students, increase the competition budget, and foster productive relationships with aerospace companies. This will propel VADL into the future, strengthen alumni relationships, inspire prospective students, and ensure student success at Vanderbilt and beyond. That encouragement is deeply appreciated by the students and provides further motivation to strive for excellence.