-March 28, 2012

When we contacted Aaron Goldstein to congratulate him on being named the ACE Awards Student of the Year, the 22-year-old Arizona State University senior repeatedly said, "I'm really excited," but he wasn't speaking only of the award. In May, Goldstein will receive his undergraduate degree in aerospace engineering with a concentration in aeronautics.

Goldstein began gathering real-world engineering experience in June 2009 after his freshman year at ASU when he took an internship at General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems in the satellite-systems-engineering department. During that year, Goldstein assembled a group of undergraduate students to compete in a deep-space-mission design competition.

The following year, Goldstein continued his internship as Orbital Sciences Corp acquired General Dynamics. In August 2010, Goldstein again gathered a group of undergraduate students with a focus on designing and building space satellites and founded the Sun Devil Satellite Laboratory with a handful of fellow ASU students.

Understanding both the value and the challenges of collaboration, Goldstein values his peers as much as he values those who have helped guide his early career. "It's difficult finding a good mentor to help foster your skills and to ask advice, but there are people out there who help," he says. "But the most difficult part is being able to find other friends or students who are motivated like that."

The Sun Devil Satellite Lab effort led to a successful preconcept-design review of an earth-imaging satellite. In 2011, the Sun Devil Satellite Lab attracted the attention of a solar-science research team at NASA's GSFC (Goddard Space Flight Center). The NASA research team and Goldstein's Sun Devil Satellite Lab collaborated and began a joint effort, the Sun Devil Satellite 1 mission.

Goldstein and his team have since led the Sun Devil Satellite 1 spacecraft through successful preliminary- and critical-design reviews. Taking notice of Goldstein's skills, NASA in 2010-and again in 2011-awarded him a Space Grant internship. With the second award, Goldstein remained a research intern but was promoted to a student advisory/leadership role.

Goldstein plans to continue working at Orbital Sciences after he graduates next month. He has other plans, as well. With well-matched engineering-spirit and entrepreneurial goals, along with a supportive family, Goldstein plans to start an aerospace and electrical-engineering design company. "[I and] a few of the other students I work with at the satellite lab think it would be cool if we could do this [project] and make some money at it or at least be able to do it on our own terms," he says. "We want to do more than just [work with] satellites and more than electronics and aerospace applications."

Goldstein will be spending the next few weeks leading up to his graduation looking for support for his start-up and planning funding and grants proposals for the satellite lab. "There's quite a bit in store," he says. "I'm really excited. I keep using that word, but it's the only word I can use to explain how I feel right now. It's exciting."

See the links below for this year's other winners:

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