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Grand Challenges Scholar, Spring 2024

Nicholas Rodian Peterson

Nicholas Rodian Peterson had a deeply rooted fascination with space as a child. Over time, that interest evolved, and he found himself drawn to the idea of being someone who crafts the tools that enable space exploration.

That goal helped guide him to pursue a degree in aerospace engineering with a concentration in astronautics in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, part of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University.

Peterson is graduating as scholar from the Fulton Schools Grand Challenges Scholars Program, or GCSP.

“The theme that resonates with me within the GCSP is security, driven by a genuine desire to contribute toward preventing threats that could potentially end civilization, particularly focusing on the issue of protection from celestial bodies,” Peterson says.

His capstone project focused on mitigating damage that a celestial body can do on Earth’s surface. The project, named Responsive Asteroid Interception and Deflection, or RAID, utilizes a constellation of satellites capable of deflecting asteroids from their trajectories so they will leave Earth’s sphere of influence.

“The project served as a practical learning experience on how space mission designs are done by making the team identify critical requirements, identifying the scope of those needs and formulating effective solutions for the requirements made,” Peterson says. “This project also focused on the importance of teamwork to solve problems such as defending the planet against celestial bodies.”

Peterson credits ASU Foundation Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Werner Dahm’s class on rocket propulsion with helping him recognize he was on the right path. Dahm also assisted Peterson with getting an internship with Nammo Defense Systems.

Peterson also completed an Engineering Projects in Community Service, or EPICS, project with a team that created a rainwater catcher designed to be deployed in yards during rainfalls to collect and store rainwater in a large container. He also served as a camp counselor for E2, the Fulton Schools experience for incoming first-year students.

The Phoenix native will continue at ASU as he pursues an accelerated master’s degree in aerospace engineering with a long-term goal of earning a doctoral degree after working in the field for a few years.

Read about other exceptional graduates of the Fulton Schools’ spring 2024 class here.

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