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Not even the sky’s the limit for mechanical engineer

Tyler Chlapek hopes to attend graduate school at MU after he completes a summer fellowship with the Center for Space Nuclear Research.

Let’s face it: most little kids don’t dream of becoming engineers. They want to be firefighters and princesses and astronauts. Maybe the little boy inside Tyler Chlapek is still calling the shots. The senior mechanical engineering major was recently awarded a summer fellowship with the Center for Space Nuclear Research (CSNR).

“To be honest, I didn’t really find engineering all that fascinating until I got into this,” he said. “But now I really enjoy it.”

As part of his fellowship, Chlapek will study the feasibility of using radioactive decay to propel rockets into space. Condensed atmospheric gases could act as a propellant and theoretically replace solid and liquid fuel in powering rockets.

“It would save money, because they wouldn’t have to transfer extra propellant weight, which costs a lot,” Chlapek said.

The CSNR is located in Idaho Falls, Idaho. The facility supports research projects on nuclear and space technologies. Chlapek will work with a team of undergraduates and graduates who will present their findings at the completion of the fellowship.

Chlapek was made aware of the fellowship opportunity by his undergraduate honors research advisor, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Professor Craig Kluever. The research topic that Kluever gave Chlapek was originally proposed by the CSNR, so when the project progressed, Kluever encouraged him to look into the fellowship program.

“The program looks really awesome,” Chlapek said. “It’s all very fascinating and I’m extremely interested in everything they’re working on.”

“I just want to get exposed to more of this technology and have some positive impact on it,” he said. “I’m very excited about the opportunity,” Chlapek said.

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