For senior Astronautical Engineering major Elijah Emory, learning about space came as naturally as learning how to walk. As a child, he reveled in watching the skies and soaking up the wonder of the cosmos, dreaming of ways to get closer to the edge of the universe. He was especially fascinated by the engineering marvels that allowed humans to interact with space in ways never thought possible. He vividly recalls watching the final shuttle launch while he was in elementary school, then the New Horizons flyby of Pluto and the first manned Falcon 9 launch in high school. The spaceflight revival lit a fire within Elijah, and he eagerly awaits the day that humans will return to the moon so that he can be a part of the adventure.
Elijah chose Capitol Tech for his college experience after researching various schools that offered an Astronautical Engineering program of study. He appreciated Capitol’s tight-knit culture that provided excellent opportunities for one-on-one collaboration with professors and peers. The small campus size was the greatest draw, and Elijah knew that he would be able to make a significant impact on team projects in such an intimate, focused community.
Elijah has always been a familiar face around campus, establishing himself as a leader amongst his peers from the very beginning of his college career. Upon arriving at Capitol, he sought out clubs related to his interests and wasted no time getting involved. Some of the earliest activities he recalls participating in were star parties hosted by the Astronomy Club, which introduced him to people who would become dear friends. “Clubs have been the lifeblood of a lot of the student activities here at Capitol, and it's been fun plugging in when I can to host and join events,” he says.
Since then, he has been actively involved in countless projects related to astronautical engineering, from payload launches to satellite design. Elijah also manages the Space Flight Operations Training Center (SFOTC) along with the Fusion Lab, a multidisciplinary maker space where students from various majors can work collaboratively. In both of these roles, he assists fellow students and helps them apply concepts from class into hands-on projects. “It feels like a way to give back to all the seniors that helped me along with academic projects and inspired me to do more,” he says of the work. “I’m glad we’ve set something up for the next generation of students, and I hope it continues giving back to Capitol with projects anyone can put their skills and passion into.”
One of Elijah’s most memorable projects and proudest achievements as a student was his work on the TRAPSat high-altitude balloon payload. He served as the student lead for this endeavor, which involved updating the previous TRAPSat mission payload to add a discrete sampling door. “The TRAPSat High Altitude Balloon payload was a challenging and rewarding experience that really grew me as an engineer and leader. I learned a lot about integration, soldering, trade studies, testing, team dynamics, and prototyping among many other things, but the best stuff came from all the amazing people I got to learn from,” he says. He fondly remembers the culmination of the project after months of hard work; driving to the launch site in West Virginia in a packed car surrounded by the teammates who helped construct the payload was an unforgettable adventure. “I think the best experience I’ve had was watching the weather balloon lift our payload from my hands and seeing it soar off into the sky, then meeting up afterwards to celebrate at iHOP and later seeing the video of that beautiful blue line at 70,000 feet. We did it, we touched the edge of space.”
In addition to the balloon payload, Elijah has worked on a variety of other projects throughout his time at Capitol, including the 2023 Capitol Tech badge design for DEF CON, an annual hacker convention where Capitol exhibits. Over the summer, Elijah designed and prototyped the printed circuit board (PCB) for Capitol’s badge, which has the ability to detect radio frequencies emitted by various objects. In addition to the DEF CON badge, Elijah spent the summer testing rotors for Capitol’s upcoming Wideband Operations Radio Field (WORF) project. He has also begun work on his senior design project of a lunar regolith (AKA “moon dust”) sintering rover, which is currently in its early phases of development.
Because of his stellar academic performance and widespread involvement on campus, Elijah was the proud recipient of the 2023 Avrum Gudelsky Memorial Scholarship, the highest academic honor that Capitol confers each year.
Looking ahead, Elijah has his sights set on a systems engineer role post-graduation, and eventually hopes to become a lead spacecraft designer. Recently, Elijah began an internship with ASRC Federal Holding Company, an organization providing solutions and mission support for both governmental and civilian agencies. His position is in communications and data handling, and he looks forward to learning more about the astronautical industry through this opportunity. “I just want to do something that is making a difference for the future of spaceflight and exploration,” he muses.
Elijah credits much of his inspiration and passion for astronautical engineering to the professors and peers who have worked alongside him at Capitol. Professors Rishabh Maharaja, Marcel Mabson, Conrad Schiff, Ryan Schrenk, Charles Conner, and Jeff Volosin all had a significant impact on Elijah’s educational experience, helping him work through engineering challenges and instilling the skills needed to manage the simulation software in the SFOTC and the prototyping tools in the Fusion Lab. Professors Liam Williams and Zane Harvey also helped Elijah to grasp concepts in areas that he had limited knowledge in, such as electronics and coding.
When asked about advice he would give the next generation of Capitol students, Elijah says the key is to never give up and to always maintain the drive to learn more. “Keep that curious spark that makes you want to pursue these degrees in the first place, and you’ll make it through the challenges,” he encourages. He also stresses the importance of keeping a close social circle and leaning on the friends you make for support and motivation. “Almost everyone I’ve met along my academic career are also driven individuals, and surrounding yourself with honest friends both in academics and clubs/extracurriculars builds everyone up. It may take a village, but we can find a way or make one!”