Mudder Reaching New Heights With Astronaut Scholarship

Engineering student Sherman Lam ’16 has become the 22nd Harvey Mudd College student to be named an Astronaut Scholar by the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, which provides scholarships for college students pursuing science and technology careers.

Lam is one of 32 recipients of the prestigious $10,000 award for the 2014–2015 academic year. To be eligible for the Astronaut Scholarship, students must demonstrate innovation, creativity, exceptional performance or unusual drive in their research fields, be in high academic standing and be actively involved in research.

Lam has contributed to two robotics research projects in the Lab for Autonomous and Intelligent Robotics (LAIR), advised by Associate Professor of Engineering Chris Clark. The first required him to develop an autonomous agent that planned paths for autonomous underwater robots called sea gliders. Working in collaboration with researchers from the University of Delaware, Lam’s planner will be used to help study sharks and sturgeon along the East Coast. His current project involves designing a low-cost system for autonomous quadrotor localization.

On top of this research, Lam has designed a flame-throwing robot for the Combat Robots Club, repaired a remote control aircraft, fabricated an amateur rocket and refurbished a small maker-space for the Harvey Mudd College Fabrication Studio.

Astronaut Scholarship candidates must be at least sophomore-level students in engineering, mathematics or applied or natural sciences and must be nominated by a faculty member.

“Of our very talented group of engineers, Mr. Lam is one of the best,” says Clark, who nominated the junior for the scholarship. “His dedication, respectfulness, passion and creativity are what truly make him a future leader.”

Lam’s other contributions to the Harvey Mudd College community include being co-president of the Fabrication Studio, co-president of the Combat Robots Club, machine shop proctor and Autonomous Vehicles Lab proctor. Lam is also the recipient of the Harvey Mudd College Davies Engineering Prize (2013) and the Lois and Joseph Marriott Aeronautical Endowed Scholarship (2012, 2013 and 2014).

Upon graduation, Lam intends to continue pursuing his research in robotics software and aspires to work at an institution such as NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory or SpaceX.

“I aspire to push the boundaries of space exploration with robotics,” says Lam. “I pursue my research and personal projects so that I can gain a stronger foundation in software and electromechanical systems on which I can help advance the development of intelligent robotics for the sake of space exploration. I believe robots are the key to exploring places where humans may never go and to expanding our understanding of the universe.”

The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation is a nonprofit organization established in 1984 by the six surviving members of America’s original Mercury astronauts. The Astronaut Scholarship is the largest, merit-based monetary award given in the nation to science and engineering undergraduate students. Harvey Mudd College is one of 27 institutions—and the only non-doctorate granting school—selected by the foundation to participate in the program.