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Outstanding Graduate, Spring 2024

Shane Tokishi

Shane Tokishi, who is graduating as an aerospace engineering major from the Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering at Arizona State University, has been fascinated by space from a young age. 

“I chose ASU due to its excellent engineering programs, particularly aerospace engineering,” Tokishi says.

At ASU, Tokishi realized that he wanted to focus on fluid mechanics, the study of liquid and gases in motion and at rest. 

“I find immense satisfaction in the problem-solving aspect of engineering,” he says. “I am grateful that we had not just one, but two dedicated aerodynamic courses.”

Tokishi, who is also a student in Barrett, The Honors College, was part of the first group of students to design, develop and hot-fire a liquid rocket engine at ASU. The project started in 2020 amid the pandemic, with the team persevering through their research and manufacturing efforts despite the circumstances. 

On May 12, 2023, they successfully hot-fired the engine for the first time, utilizing liquid oxygen and RP-1, a highly refined form of kerosene, as the propellants.

“That I worked on a liquid rocket engine during my undergraduate years is so cool,” he says.
As an intern, Tokishi worked alongside Leila Ladani, a professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering in the Fulton Schools, on the Summer Research Initiative

Together, they optimized ball milling and laser powder bed fusion settings to produce copper-carbon nanotube composites through 3D printing. Ball milling is a grinding method that minces nanotubes into an extremely fine powder while a laser is a beam of light intense enough to cut, melt and fuse the material powders. 

Through his leadership roles, he made valuable contributions to ASU’s community and beyond, particularly as a 2023–24 intro team lead for Sun Devil Rocketry, or SDR. 

Through SDR’s K-12 outreach program, he trained aspiring engineers on the intricacies of rocketry. 

“Watching them grow as engineers under my guidance has been such a meaningful experience,” Tokishi says. 

As a first-generation engineer, he is grateful for the support of ASU faculty, especially Valana Wells, an associate professor and the undergraduate program chair for the aerospace and mechanical engineering program in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, part of the Fulton Schools.

“Valana Wells has been incredibly instrumental in shaping me as an engineer,” Tokishi says. “Without her, I may have never discovered my passion for fluid dynamics.”

He intends to deepen his understanding of fluid mechanics by pursuing his graduate studies at Stanford University.

“My dream would be to work on a defense aircraft,” Tokishi says.

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

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