Aerospace engineering student Terelle Cadd has recently been selected as one of Aviation Week’s “20 Twenties” for 2022. Cadd, along with 19 other students, was identified as one of the top aerospace-bound individuals from an international field of highly qualified candidates. 

The annual award, sponsored by Aviation Week in collaboration with Accenture and Hexcel, recognizes STEM students nominated by their universities on the basis of their academic performance, civic contribution, and research or design projects. The winners are invited to Washington, D.C, this fall to attend the 20 Twenties Awards Luncheon at the Watergate Hotel and Aviation Week Network’s 65th Annual Laureate Awards and Dinner at the National Building Museum.

Cadd is the third Virginia Tech student to receive the prestigious "20 Twenties" honor from Aviation Week since the program launched in 2013. He follows fellow aerospace and ocean engineering graduates James “JP” Stewart, who received the award in 2016, and Samantha Rocker, recognized in 2019. 

“My experience with Terelle has been like no other student I have advised prior,” said Professor of Practice H. Pat Artis, who advised Cadd as an undergraduate and spearheaded his nomination. “I am confident this honor will be an early milestone of his distinguished career.” 

A 2022 graduate and current Ph.D. candidate in the Kevin T. Crofton Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering, Cadd’s journey has been somewhat nontraditional compared with his peers. A former warehouse package handler for United Parcel Service Inc., he pursued community college studies to better prepare for his desired path to engineering. He transferred into the department of aerospace and ocean engineering at Virginia Tech in the fall of 2019.

For some transfer students, the rigorous Virginia Tech curriculum can present a challenging transition, but Cadd excelled academically and quickly rose as a leader within the department. According to Artis, Cadd consistently scored the highest grade on tests and assignments, maintained a 4.0 GPA, and was named to the dean’s list each semester.

As an undergraduate, Cadd worked multiple semesters under Artis’ supervision to design, build, and fly a thrust vector control guided rocket. He sought out additional undergraduate research opportunities, such as working with Professor K. Todd Lowe’s research group to improve applied laser flow measurements, resulting in a system now used by all aerospace students in a junior-level lab. Cadd also joined a team working on the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative Battle Drones program. Working under research scientist Kevin Schroeder, the group developed 3D-printed drones to outfit educational outreach kits for high school STEM teams. 

Cadd’s talents and leadership qualities have not gone unnoticed by the aerospace industry. In 2019, he was accepted into the NASA STEM Takes Flight internship program sponsored by the Virginia Space Grant Consortium and held at NASA Langley Research Center. Cadd was invited to return to the NASA Academy for the summers of 2020, 2021, and 2022 as a team lead. 

In 2021, Cadd was awarded the highly competitive Astronaut Scholarship, making him only the fourth Virginia Tech student to receive the prestigious award. The nonprofit organization was created by the surviving Mercury 7 astronauts in 1984 and is known nationwide for being among the largest merit-based monetary scholarships awarded to undergraduate STEM juniors and seniors. The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation recognizes the best and brightest minds in STEM who show initiative, creativity, and excellence.

In recognition of his outstanding academic scholarship, leadership amongst his peers, and his service to the university and the community, Cadd was named the Outstanding Senior for the College of Engineering in 2022. 

This semester, Cadd will transition to life as a graduate student. He was awarded the Crofton Graduate Fellowship to support his studies and will be joining Professor Jonathan Black’s research group to perform multidisciplinary research for small satellites and autonomous space applications. The group is exploring the use of space robotics and testing autonomy, hardware-in-the-loop, and computer/machine learning algorithms.

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