The Daniel Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering at Georgia Tech

ASDL Science, Technology, and Engineering Pipeline (STEP) Program

Contact Ruth Pimentel (ruth.pimentel (at) for more information.


The ASDL Science, Technology, and Engineering Pipeline (STEP) Program is an educational outreach program designed to provide hands-on engineering internships to Atlanta-area high school students. Similar to the language immersion programs done for the language arts, STEP is an immersion program for engineering. Students work in teams and are paired with a GT Faculty mentors. Each student team is then given a challenge problem that contributes in a meaningful way to an active research effort on campus. The students work through the summer with their mentor to solve their challenge problem, and present the results to parents, teachers, faculty, and industry representatives at a poster session at the end of the semester.

STEP aims to be different from the typical engineering summer camp in several keys ways. First, the STEP program is fully funded through donations from industry partnerships, allowing students to participate at no charge. This allows the program to reach underprivileged populations that are not typically able to participate in more expensive camps. Second, the program challenges students to work on and contribute to real research problems, giving them an experience that closely mirrors what they might do in an engineering job. There is no pre-designed solution for them to achieve, and instead they are required to stretch their capabilities and challenge themselves in order to succeed.

In addition to teaching engineering skills, this gives the students a sense of confidence and pride that helps them to succeed in future endeavors. Currently, the STEP program takes ~50 students a year (2014 and 2015 programs have averaged 50% minority participants and 30-40% female participants), and is working to extend its reach to additional high schools as well as expand across the campus. Donations to this program are used to ensure that the program continues to be accessible to underprivileged students by offsetting the costs of running a large high school internship program and providing the needed supplies for the student projects.


  • “I feel the STEM academics program is a great success it offer our students a chance to catch up with their peers at other schools, and it also give them the opportunities they would have never gotten. For those parents who care and can't afford summer programs Georgia Tech steps in by saying we care, understand, and help is here. That's awesome in my eyes. I wish they had this program when my kids were in school.” D. London, Head of Maintenance and Custodians, Lithia Springs High School
  • "Georgia Tech's ASDL STEP partnership with Lithia Spring High School's STEM Academy and the subsequent internships that it has provided have proved to be life changing experiences for our students. It provides our students with greater insight into their chosen career pathways which inspires them to pursue their goals more vigorously, as they realize that a first rate college experience is within their reach, and that they [LSHS students] are capable of meeting the rigorous demands that it requires. As a result, the partnership has helped transform our school into a place where parents place high value on the select opportunity for their students to attend and participate in our innovative programs.” Dr. Garrick Askew, Principal, Lithia Springs High School
  • "To state plainly, the internship program at Georgia Tech with the Aerospace System Design Laboratory and its Science, Technology, and Engineering Pipeline program has changed the lives of our students, even the ones that do not get to participate. Imagine living in a trailer park off Bankhead Highway with a single parent…what does the first day on campus at Georgia Tech feel like. Whether it leads to a degree from there or not, it is a watershed event and something our students will cherish wherever they end up going to study engineering." Dr. Lee Collins, Assistant Principal, Lithia Springs High School
  • "The experience our students gain from their GaTech internship gets them excited to pursue engineering at the highest levels. As a result our students will be able to return to their community after college and be major contributors to the local economy in addition to mentoring the next group of students entering our school system." Darren Rager, STEM Engineering Teacher, Lithia Springs High School
  • "The ASDL STEP program at Georgia Tech has opened doors for our students that would have otherwise never been opened. The students came back with an enthusiasm for not only engineering, but also college. Believing that college can be a reality is probably one of the best takeaways for our students." P. Millinor, AP Coordinator, STEM Coordinator, Pre-AP 9th grade Literature teacher, Lithia Springs High School
  • "In addition, the summer internship program at Georgia Tech has brought in a diverse group of students that have committed to changing the culture and academics of our school and community." Petrina Warren, Honors 10th Grade Literature, Lithia Springs High School
  • "My best performing students this year consisted of those who attended the summer program at Georgia Tech." J. Freeman, 9th & 10th Grade Accelerated Math, Lithia Springs High School
  • "Internships at Georgia Tech have increased interest, motivation and a sense of belonging for all STEM Academy students at Lithia Springs High School, especially those demographics underrepresented in STEM fields. In addition, these internships have created an opportunity for our STEM students to gain theoretical and practical knowledge in real world engineering applications. Because of this, our STEM students have improved their vocabulary usage allowing them to use a lot of technical terminology in in-class discussions which enhanced my students' classroom experience. As a STEM mathematics instructor, it has been amazing to witness how well my students have connected the mathematical applications learned inside class with their internship experiences." Keenan X Lee, Mathematics Department Head, AP Calculus, Lithia Springs High School
  • “I have two students in my current classes who attended STEP last summer. Watching their approach to research this semester, it’s evident to me that the STEP experience was beneficial.” Kelly Ingle, teacher at Kennesaw Mountain High School
  • "It’s partnership with Georgia Tech and the summer internship program has given Lithia prestige." Chris Atkinson, Title I Math Instructional Lead Teacher, Douglas County Schools
  • "The STEP Program has allowed the students to take the skills they have learned and adapt them to different situations/problems. As a result, student interest and participation in the science fair has increased and led to placement at the county level and beyond to state. This in turn has started to change the perception the community has had about Lithia. As a teacher, the students that attended the Science, Technology, and Engineering Pipeline (STEP) Program can problem solve and collaborate at a higher level than their peers." B. Parker, AP Biology, Lithia Springs High School
  • "She sees that she is able to achieve but also have fun at the same time, which is very important to me." G. Babalola, STEM Guidance Counselor, Lithia Springs High School
  • "I have seen monumental growth and positive impact from my STEM students who have participated in the internship programs provided by Georgia Tech. These students who have I have for three years come back to me having matured from the experience of spending quality time on the college campus and are generally more innovative and thoughtful in their project based work in the classroom. These students serve as role models to their peers, both who are in the STEM program and those who are not. I have found with these students that bring more of a maturity to our campus, they also tend to be more open minded to various concepts and situations both in and out of the classroom. These students also seem to have a new found confidence in themselves as well as in our school and are not bashful about portraying that to others." Evan Hopkins, Early Childhood Ed teacher, FCCLA sponsor, Lithia Springs High School
  • "The STEM Academy at Lithia Springs High School and it partnership with Georgia Tech has brought opportunities to our students that they have never had before. Every day I get to witness the impact of this program on our kids and community. I get the chance to hear their stories about working on real world engineering projects in their internships at Georgia Tech and how they want to go to school there now." Savannah Reese, AP World History, AP European History, Lithia Springs High School
  • "Students are pushing themselves to take more rigorous and challenging courses, so they can participate in summer programs like the ones Georgia Tech has to offer. We are so thankful for our partners especially Georgia tech and the support they have provided in this venture." J. Weaver, Head Guidance Counselor, Lithia Springs High School
  • “[The program] made an impression on Gavin, and helped him decide that he wants to be an engineer. He wrote about his ASDL internship in several of his essays.” Amy Hudnall, the mother of one of the participants
  • "Although the kids I teach are not in STEM, it inspires them. One of my students who has a disability told me that he wanted to get into the chemistry class to prove that he could do it (be successful) like the students who are in STEM and go to Georgia Tech." M. Robison, Adaptive SPED teacher, Lithia Springs High School
  • "Most of them are eager to share their GT experience when participating in that internship. [Two students] shared how GT professors helped them narrow down a project that could be tested. Those same professors offered them assistance and guided them through the project to be successful." Susan Singletary, Lithia Springs High School
  • “I loved the program very much. Everyone who I was with was extremely nice and took the time to explain concepts to me that I wasn't familiar with. I learned a lot about engineering and what I want to do in the future... If it hadn't been for this program, last summer, I probably would have stayed inside for 2 months and played [a video game]. I'm so happy that I had the opportunity to participate in STEP because it was a much better use of my time, and more importantly I had a lot of fun. I hope many more students are able to participate in this wonderful program. It was honestly the best part of my summer.” One of the participants from 2014
  • “The STEP program was an amazing experience!” One of the participants from 2014


Gold Level

  • Lockheed Martin Aeronautics

Silver Level

  • Boeing

Donor Benefits
In addition to making a positive impact on the local community, supporters of the program will receive:

  • Recognition of contribution in all publicity that the program receives
  • Recognition and an opportunity to address and interact with student participants in the annual poster session
  • Ability to participate in the program actively either by providing mentorship for teams or providing tour opportunities for students
  • Brand exposure to promising students interested in STEM


They are not roasting marshmallows at ASDL's STEP summer camp

"Real Research" Summer Program for High School Students

STEP featured on Univision

STEP Selected as Finalist for TAG STEM Award

Project Examples

Autonomous Boat: In collaboration with one of our Naval Engineering Education Center (NEEC) projects, the students have been challenged to develop a set of codes for an autonomous boat. This includes the codes for pulse width modulation control of the motors, basic vehicle motion, simple search patterns, and robotic vision to recognize objects of interest in a cluttered space. This also included a sister project on developing a sonar system. Ultimately, these elements are tested on an actual test vehicle assembled at ASDL.

Asteroid Capture: This project has been inspired by an effort from NASA Langley Research Center and Dr. Charles Camarda, NASA Astronaut and Senior Advisor for Engineering Development. This year’s Epic Challenge, which has been presented to our high school student team, is to engineer missions to identify, capture, and redirect an asteroid to a stable orbit around the moon where astronauts can later visit it.

Hybrid Electric: The students were challenged to take a concept for a hybrid-electric propulsion system for a UAV and finish the design, build, and test it. The hybrid electric system uses a gas motor to power an alternator, which charges a lithium ion battery during flight to extend the range/endurance of the vehicle. The lithium ion battery directly powers the motor that drives the propeller. There have been two primary aspects to this project: to design and build the actual drive system, to design and test a power regulation system to ensure that the lithium ion battery does not charge beyond capacity in flight.

Quadrotor Dynamics, Assembly, and Testing: Inspired by the Army Research Lab’s micro-autonomous systems and technology (MAST) research project, the students have been asked to assemble, tune, and test several quadrotor kits. Then they have been challenged to use the knowledge they gained from this activity to build, and test a custom quadrotor of their own design. All of these vehicles will eventually be used as test platforms supporting several academic research efforts.

Rotor/Propeller Testing: A number of the completion and research vehicle platforms in ASDL rely on the use of small motor/propeller combinations as their primary source of thrust. However, there is no existing database to predict the performance of different combinations of motors and propellers. This team has been challenged to perform a series of wind tunnel tests on various motor-propeller combinations to gather data and make performance predictions which can then be used to support vehicle design efforts across the lab.

Smart Campus: This is a project to devise new ways to visualize building energy usage, with the goal to help occupants and stakeholders to understand their energy footprint and hopefully reduce it. Combining current best practices with their own novel ideas, participants were challenged to create a building energy dashboard concept and design specification.

UAV Design: The students were challenged to design an unmanned aircraft to be powered by the hybrid electric engine. This team focused on the design of the aircraft, which included the sizing calculations, performance predictions, and initial CAD model of their design. For this design, they were challenged to manufacture a test wing for the aircraft. They have experimented with a number of manufacturing techniques to determine which manufacturing technique would be best for the vehicle.

3D Printer The students are building a small 3D printer from a kit, but modifying the design to make it more reliable

UAV for Mars The students are designing a small UAV to be used in support of a future Mars Colony

Parametric Wing Design The students have been challenged to develop a parametric CAD model for a wing that could be manufactured in a FAB lab. This is to support forward deployed troops who may need to repair or adapt small unmanned surveillance vehicles with minimal tools and engineering knowledge.

Hardware in the loop testing This team is designing a hardware in the loop simulation framework for a quadcopter.

FPV gimbal for a Quadcopter This team is designing and building a quadcopter to carry a first person view gimbal, and getting all the electronics to integrate smoothly.

Europa Ice Drilling The students are designing an ice drilling robot to search for life under the ice of Europa

Quadcopter Maritime Launch and Recovery Pad The students are designing a launching/landing pad for a quadcopter to be deployed and recovered from a WAM-V (a 16 ft autonomous boat)

Aerobatic Aircraft The students are working on developing elements of a design environment for aerobatic aircraft

Electromechanical Systems Education The students are testing a course developed through one of our research projects to teach hands-on skills to young enlisted military personnel, and providing feedback on how we can improve the course. As they complete the course, they are challenged to build, repair, and adapt a quadcopter using a set of parts that is provided.

Robotic Arms for Kids This team is creating a parametric, scalable model of a prosthetic arm for kids, which can be fully 3D printed. The goal is cut down on the time and cost required for doctors to size and manufacture the arms.

SysML Bots Using SysML, the students are programming a number of behaviors into a set of small ground robots.

WAM-V AUVSI recently donated a WAM-V to the lab, and these students are getting it put together and working, including developing an Arduino control setup for the motors.


Click Here for Photos from the 2015 STEP Poster Session

Interested Students

Students interested in applying to the STEP program should submit an File:ASDL STEP Application Form.pdf to ruth.pimentel (at)