Rocket Scientist for a Half-Day

PEPL has the unique facilities and cutting edge research that is ideal for interesting elementary and middle school students in a future STEM career. PEPL participates in Rocket Scientist for a Half-Day to give this exposure to local students.

How PEPL is involved:

Every summer, PEPL gives a laboratory tour and demonstrations for local elementary school students. Demonstrations include exposing marshmallows to a vacuum environment and performing Galileo’s Leaning Tower of Pisa experiment.

How to get involved:

Please contact us if you are interested in participating in this event, as a parent, teacher, or school administrator.


The Michigan Institute for Plasma Science and Engineering (MIPSE) is a community of faculty, staff and students at the University of Michigan and Michigan State University whose research and education programs are devoted to the advancement of the science and technology of plasmas. The breadth of research is impressive – from laser produced plasmas for particle acceleration to plasmas in the earth’s magnetosphere. We take pride in the excellence of the research and in the resulting societal benefits.

How PEPL is involved:

Many PEPL students have benefited from the MIPSE graduate fellowship, and PEPL routinely participates in the Graduate Student Symposium, as far back as the first symposium.

How to get involved:

MIPSE offers many opportunities to learn more about plasma physics and support research. It regularly conducts outreach activities, as well as hosting a seminar series every semester. Additionally, the MIPSE Graduate Student Symposium is a great opportunity to be exposed to the wide variety of plasma physics research conducted at several Michigan universities. Students can apply for a MIPSE fellowship that complements the Graduate Certificate in Plasma Science and Engineering.

Michigan Advanced In-Space propulsion Engineers (MAISE)

MAISE is an student group partnering undergraduates from the Michigan Chapter of the Women in Aeronautics and Astronautics with graduate students from PEPL. Together they are working to design and build a vacuum facility and control system to operate the PEPL-70 Hall thruster, the first of its kind designed at PEPL. This mobile system will be used to demonstrate the operation and science behind advanced space propulsion to the public during laboratory tours, the University events. The mobile design will also allow this outreach project to also demonstrate our technology at local high schools.

Thruster Team:

Lead member: Veronika Bayer

Member: Catherine Budd

The thruster team is working on refurbishing the PEPL-70 Hall thruster for use in the demonstration. This sub-team, among their many tasks, is responsible for measuring and modeling the magnetic field, verifying electrical isolation and continuity, and measuring the uniformity of the propellant flow. This team works closely with the controls and facility teams to ensure success of this project.

Vacuum Facility Team

Lead Member: Kirsten Ried

Member: Nora Shapiro

Member: Abby Huff

The vacuum facility team is responsible for designing and building the MAISE vacuum chamber. First and foremost, they are responsible for designing and installing the pumping system to achieve space-like conditions when operating the thruster. Next, they are responsible for designing and building the mobile stand to be able to move the stand around the university to demonstrate electric propulsion technology to the public.

Controls Team

Lead Member: Katherine Wolff
Member: Kaelan Oldani

The Controls team for the MAISE project is in charge of implementing a LabView controls interface on a large touchscreen desktop computer.  This interface controls the digital power supplies connected to the thruster and its various components and will even be able to run and ignite the thruster.  The large monitor will allow ease of view of data that will be acquired and analyzed using graphs and figures.  Audience members can view the thruster running through port holes in the chamber, while concurrently looking at thrust and temperature data on the screen to further enhance their understanding of electric propulsion.