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American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics

    Momentum Member Spotlight – September 2015

    AIAA Congratulates Ayodeji T. Bode-Oke

    By Duane Hyland, AIAA Communications

     

    Ayodeji-Bode-Oke1 With September being “back-to-school” month for a wide swath of the nation, the spotlight spun around from Europe to fall on central Virginia and the town of Charlottesville, where the University of Virginia is located, focusing its beam on graduate student Ayodeji T. Bode-Oke.

    Bode-Oke is the 2015 winner of the Abe M. Zarem Award for Distinguished Achievement in Aeronautics. The award honored Bode-Oke for his paper: “Optimized Body Deformation in Dragonfly Maneuvers.” As the Zarem award winner, he has been invited to present his work at the 30th Congress of the International Council of the Aeronautical Sciences, which takes place 25–30 September 2016, in Daejeon, South Korea. In early January, AIAA also will recognize Bode-Oke during the AIAA Science and Technology Forum and Exposition 2016 (AIAA SciTech 2016) in San Diego, California. AIAA Honorary Fellow Dr. Abe Zarem, founder and managing director of Frontier Associates established the Zarem award to recognize graduate students in aeronautics or astronautics, who have demonstrated outstanding scholarships in their fields and who are pursuing Master’s degrees.

    Not being an aerospace engineer, I began the interview by discussing Bode-Oke’s paper, which sounded fascinating. When asked what the paper was about, Bode-Oke explained, “It is fundamentally based on the notion that certain proficient flyers in the insect world such as dragonflies, having millions years to perfect their flight strategy, have found ways to minimize energy expenditure or optimize their motion during maneuvers. My work highlights that improving flight efficiency and minimizing energy expenditure is not limited to the wing motion, but body deformations of dragonflies may serve as an auxiliary mechanism for reducing the energy cost needed to perform a maneuver.” When asked how he conducted the research, because dragonflies are pretty quick, he replied, “In order to examine my hypothesis, I developed an optimization algorithm to minimize the total flight torque. I used both a rigid and flexible body model for the analysis. In order to attain the optimized body posture which minimizes energy consumption, the algorithm inquired whether the dragonfly will choose to remain rigid or defect its tail to help out.” Bode-Oke concluded, “The results indicated that for executing the same aerial maneuver, an insect with a flexible body, i.e., the ability to deflect its tail, requires substantially smaller flight torque when compared to an insect with identical morphology but possessing a rigid body. In addition, I noted that body flexibility can change the flight torque by two means with the changes in the instantaneous mass distribution of the body having the most substantial effect on reducing the flight torque, while the inertial term due to the tail movement had a smaller effect. Incorporating some body deflection into the design of MAVs may be beneficial.” I thanked Bode-Oke for his detailed analysis, and I know I will never look at a dragonfly the same way again.

    We then turned to the inspiration for his involvement in aerospace, and like so many Spotlight subjects before him, Bode-Oke replied “My father has played, and continues to play, very important roles in my life and I am an aerospace engineer today primarily because of his influence in exposing me to flying and learning about airplanes at a young age.” He explained, “As a young child in grade six, in my homeland of Nigeria, my dad introduced me to air crash investigations; a show on the National Geographic channel. I was addicted to the show, telling stories about plane crashes so much that my peers called me “plane crash stories guy.” He continued, “Coupled with my interest in math and physics later in high school, I was sure that I wanted to be an aerospace engineer despite the fears of possibly leaving home at 17 to study in an unknown land. Although there was no engineer around me when I was growing up, a TV show and my parents’ encouragement were just enough to sustain my interests. When I got to college to study, I knew I was ready and I was basically living the dream. That is why I enjoyed every step along the way.”

    When it comes to his favorite aerospace memory, Bode-Oke relayed: “So far, nothing has fascinated me more than observing flight in nature by studying insects and birds and using mathematical, physical and computational tools to explain the phenomena with the purpose of bio-mimicry in mind. Being able to venture into this area as an undergraduate student certainly made my aerospace education better-rounded. It enabled me to appreciate flying much more because I do not only have the conventional aircraft/spacecraft perspective but also nature’s perspective. It is nature’s perspective that gave me the opportunity to present my work at an AIAA student conference and also receive this award.”

    We discussed what high school student should do if they want to follow in Bode-Oke’s footsteps and major in aerospace engineering. Bode-Oke counseled, “Develop an interest early on in stories about flight. Watch TV shows, read books on flight, observe birds and insects, build paper planes, build model rockets, and join a local RC airplane club.” He was quite direct on one point: “Early exposure cannot be overemphasized. In fact, if possible, get involved in an aerospace-related project at a local university during one of your summers; it will give you an edge over your counterparts.” Bode-Oke concluded, by adding: “In addition, pay great attention to physics and mathematics. You will need them in college. Once you have developed interests in stories about aerospace, you will be willing to pick up the technical skills and pay the price, even when the going gets tough, to become an aerospace engineer.”

    We also spoke about the importance of mentoring. I asked Bode-Oke, “How important was mentorship to you and what do you think more senior members of the aerospace community can do to mentor aspiring members?” He replied, “I definitely owe a lot of my growth as an engineer and as a researcher to those who have mentored me both directly and indirectly, such as professors and graduate students. I would like to recognize Samane Zeyghami, a graduate student, who mentored me throughout the years I did research as an undergraduate. Basically, most of what I know, I owe to her mentorship and consistent and relentless guidance and willingness to help me become a better researcher. My research advisor was also a mentor, and an AIAA senior member. Senior members of the community have great insight because not only do they have experience but they genuinely want the best for their students.” Bode-Oke continued, “I think senior members of the aerospace community can help mentor aspiring members by providing more avenues for interactions with the younger generation of engineers as well as being more approachable. With that in place, it will be up to the aspiring members to seek them out, but at least they will be certain that beneficial interaction will take place.”

    The conversation then turned to AIAA and the benefit of the Institute to student members. Bode-Oke opined: “Being part of AIAA should be something that every aerospace engineering student should be proud of. It’s basically part of our identity. AIAA not only provides avenues through student conferences to test the waters of publicly presenting research to a professional audience but also networking opportunities. Its Daily Launch news briefing keep one updated with information about the aerospace industry and aviation. Its conferences provide the opportunity to meet with other professionals. AIAA also offers scholarships. I wish I had explored AIAA earlier as an undergraduate student; I would have benefited a lot more.”

    We finished up our interview by discussing Bode-Oke’s thoughts on being the Zarem award winner for 2015. Bode-Oke stated, “I am very honored and humbled to receive the award. When I was notified about the award, I was very surprised and thankful to God, my mentors and family.” He continued, “I could not help but think about how far I have come; from watching air crash investigations as a kid in Nigeria, to studying aerospace engineering in America, to being selected among my counterparts for recognition by the world’s largest aerospace engineering professional body. It is unbelievable. In addition, it showed me that no matter how small my contribution may be, there are people who will appreciate my work.” When asked what he will be doing next, Bode-Oke replied, “For me, this is not a time to rest on my laurels, I still have a very long way to go and there is still a lot to learn. The award serves as a motivating factor to do greater things, work harder, and contribute to the furtherance of aerospace engineering in the years to come both as a graduate student and after graduate school.”

    AIAA congratulates Bode-Oke on his selection as the September 2015 Spotlight subject, and for winning the 2015 Abe M. Zarem Award for Distinguished Achievement in Aeronautics. We wish him the best as he continues to shape the future of aerospace.