National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Glenn Research Center

Michael Romanko

Michael Romanko

Michael Romanko

Cornell University
Ithaca, NY
B.S. Mechanical Engineering, Jan 2013

NASA Academy Research Project
All Electric Regional Transport Aircraft with Advanced Electric Motors, Power Management and Distribution, and Energy Storage

James Felder, Dr. Gerald Brown, Timothy Dever, and Jeff Berton

Hometown: Lawrenceville, NJ



“Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I remain.” –Frank Herbert, Dune

Like an eagle soaring on thermals, effortlessly rising hundreds of feet in the air on rising currents of air, I am always looking for opportunities, sometimes invisible, that will carry me into new and exciting experiences. I am a firm believer in making spontaneous decisions every once in a while, as the results of those decisions have shaped my life and resulted in some of my best memories. Making such decisions sometimes requires overcoming an immense fear of the unknown, but the rewards can be huge. Fear holds us back in many aspects of our lives, but if overcome, the spice will flow. There are a few constant things in my life, such as my passion for aerospace related things or reading, but otherwise, I hope there will be many exciting twists and turns to come.

Education and Experience

I completed my senior year and undergraduate education in Mechanical Engineering at Cornell University. I graduated in January of 2013 but remained on campus for my final spring semester, continuing research and working on my project team, CUAir. I will be entering the Aerospace Engineering Sciences department at the University of Colorado at Boulder next year. I plan to pursue a Ph.D. in the field of remote sensing and autonomous flight of unmanned aircraft systems.

At Cornell, I was the airframe sub-team lead of the Cornell Unmanned Aerial Systems (CUAir) project team for three years. We designed and developed custom airframes for an autonomous aircraft system that carried payloads such as an onboard computer, DSLR camera and gimbal, communication equipment, power boards, and an autopilot system. Our team competes annually in mid-June at the AUVSI Student Unmanned Aerial Systems competition at Pax River Naval Air Station in Maryland. We achieved 1st in mission and 2nd overall in the Summer of 2012. I look forward to competing in the Summer of 2013, for which I am the safety pilot. Over the Summer of 2011, I worked at Lawrence Mold and Tool Corp. where I maintained CNC machines that cut steel molds for plastic injected parts. I gained hands on experience in engineering design for manufacturing of high volume consumer products.

Over the Summer of 2012, I interned with Boeing’s research and development department in Seattle. At Boeing, I analyzed aircraft hardware that failed, such as the bearing for a 737 stab trim mechanism. I also completed finite element analysis on testing equipment and designed wear testers. As part of gaining an insight into the workings of the largest aerospace corporation in the world, I walked the manufacturing floor between 747s and 787s lined up for delivery, walked inside a supersonic wind tunnel, toured the 737 moving manufacturing line, and piloted a full motion 737 simulator. I worked across from an airport and saw phenomenal aircraft such as the Blue Angels, Air Force One, and the Super Guppy.

Hobbies and Interests

Since high school, I have been building and flying radio control model aircraft and am a member of the Washington Crossing RC club in New Jersey. I fly both helicopters and fixed wing models, from micro planes, to 40 pound aircraft. My favorite aircraft is my discus launch glider, hand launched and unpowered, which rides on rising air currents called thermals. I enjoy talking with other model aircraft enthusiasts and sharing ideas and home built models.

I frequently geocache with friends, taking us to interesting places such as abandoned airfields, decrepit bridges, memorials and monuments, areas of local history, and scenic overlooks. I enjoy reading, especially science fiction, and my favorite books include Hyperion, Snow Crash, Cryptonomicon, Neuromancer, Daemon, Ringworld, Dune, Airframe, and Ender’s Game. I snowboard when the terrain is available, and I am a self-taught pianist.

Future Goals

I plan to obtain a private pilot’s certificate and glider rating during graduate school, and I look forward to soaring among the clouds. I hope to continue avidly building and flying new model aircraft and meeting and talking with other enthusiasts as interested in aircraft as I am. I would like to climb a mountain one day, such as Mt Rainier, and travel the world. My goal is to find a career in the aerospace industry working on something insanely cool.