ERPL: This is what we Do

Photo Courtesy: ERPL
Adam Joseph & Ilteris Demirkiran / ERPL President & Advisor

The Experimental Rocket Propulsion Lab is currently under management by Dr. Ilteris Demirkiran as a faculty advisor. Student administrative positions are currently held by Adam Joseph (President) and Gia Donatella (Vice-President). The current location of the Experimental Rocket Propulsion Lab (ERPL) is in room 130 of the Lehman College of Engineering. ERPL is a student organization on campus involved in the research, development, and production of rocket engines. In addition to producing advancements in rocketry and increasing industry understanding, ERPL is centered around providing students with critical project experience. By working on projects relevant to the industry, students are advancing their education by implementing their classroom knowledge as well as learning independently from the classroom about systems, integration, feasibility, and other industry critical knowledge that isn’t covered in course material.

The Experimental Rocket Propulsion Lab simultaneously works on a multitude of projects spanning across many disciplines of rocketry with students from different engineering and science majors offered on campus. Students are given the option to utilize the lab in the design and construction of liquid and hybrid rocket engines, along with the ground support systems that go along with them. The lab is also utilized as a plasma testing center where students are developing methods for creating an ion thruster. In addition to designing and building engines, ERPL also devotes a large portion of human resources into learning and utilizing computational fluid dynamics systems in order to analyze and optimize engine designs.

Due to the makeup of ERPL being primarily undergraduate students, a large portion of activities that go on in the lab are focused towards education of members. Students can choose which educational experiences to be involved in, each of which providing a unique learning experience. Students working in the hybrid division gain understanding of the design process and real world considerations that go into engine design. With multiple hybrid engines being developed in different stages of the development process students also learn about the subsystems that go into the rocket firing along with the test equipment design and implementation in order to gain data from the engines. The goal of the hybrids research is to analyze current problems in the field and develop solutions that can be applied in industry. In the liquids division, students gain similar understanding of subsystems. However, liquid engines provide a much higher focus on material science. In addition to experimenting with new materials not commonly used in rocket engines, regenerative cooling systems are being used in certain engines. Students working towards the ion thruster are gaining knowledge of plasma experimentation via the manipulation of magnetic fields and data acquisition and analysis. Students are also given the opportunity to publish the results of these projects and attend conferences.

Because all of these projects taking place in the same lab and with a strong tie between leadership and project memberships, infrastructure and knowledge is commonly shared. Many engines are designed to utilize the same ground support and design methodology. Regardless of what project students are working on, every member gains hands-on project experience that is often the center of discussions with industry experts and recruiters. ERPL provides educational and practical experiences otherwise not gained in normal university studies. When moving from academia to industry, having project experience is substantial evidence of the implementation of knowledge. The projects ERPL is involved in and the utilization of the club’s lab space not only enhances students’ knowledge and adds another layer to a student’s degree, but also provides a benchmark of experience and industry readiness students would otherwise lack. Dr. Demirkiran says “Our school teaches students about the current technologies being used in industry, where the club prepares the students for the challenges of the future.”