Designing vehicles for ocean, sky, and space

The Kevin T. Crofton Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering offers a B.S. in aerospace and ocean engineering. Students may major in either aerospace or ocean engineering, or choose to combine the programs in a double major with either aerospace or ocean as their primary major.

A profession that contributes to society

AOE students become professionals in service to the art and science of transportation. For many of our students, it’s not just about what they are designing, but how and where it will be used, and who it will benefit.


AOE students with a large turbine.

What is aerospace engineering?

In the fields of aeronautics and astronautics, aerospace engineers apply science and technology to the challenges of moving through air (aero) and space (astro).

Aeronautics focuses on the theory, technology, and practice of navigating through Earth’s atmosphere, including

  • Autonomous aerial systems
  • Aerodynamic performance of aircraft
  • Aerodynamic performance of construction materials
  • Aeroacoustic properties of wind turbines
  • Commercial and military aircraft systems

Astronautics focuses on navigation beyond the boundaries of Earth’s atmosphere, into deep space, and includes

  • Celestial mechanics
  • Guidance and control systems
  • Rovers
  • Satellites
  • Space station
  • Spacecraft and missions

While aeronautics and astronautics have different environmental challenges, the two fields often overlap because they operate on the same fundamental principles.

Aerospace engineers make spacecraft faster, airplanes safer, and drones more intelligent. They are building complex systems to simulate flight tactics, designing pressure suits for space walks, and writing the computer code that controls aircraft systems.

Aerospace engineering has a proud history of first lifting people off the ground and then into space. By designing and developing cutting-edge tools, aerospace engineers are now pushing us into new exploration environments. 


A 3D model of a submersible

What is ocean engineering?

Ocean engineers specialize in hydronautics. They develop, design, and analyze technology that operates in the complex environment on or below the surface of oceans, lakes, and rivers.

Ocean engineering technology has applications in scientific discovery, national security and defense, transportation, fishing, recreation, petroleum extraction, and thermal or wave energy capturing, among others.

The field focuses on the design, construction, and science of marine craft and instruments, including:

  • Advanced marine craft
  • Autonomous underwater vehicles (marine robotics)
  • Offshore platforms 
  • Ships
  • Submarines

Ocean engineers must build vehicles, systems, instruments, and sensors to operate smoothly in the unpredictable, often hostile environment of the open seas, which means high winds, rough waves, strong currents, and moving ice.

Today’s ocean engineering challenges include subsea robot design, subsea navigation, and collaborative autonomy to explore the vast, unmapped depths of the ocean.



What draws students to AOE?

Read it in their own words: 

A photographc of Marissa Lauren Boccher.

“As Albert Einstein once said, 'Scientists investigate that which already is; Engineers create that which has never been.' I believe that engineers have the power to change the lives of many, which means that opportunities to inspire can be great opportunities to empower. I also believe that I have a responsibility to empower others and I take great satisfaction in helping and working with others to achieve a common goal, as many engineers do today. I feel that in this modern world, technology can be one of the greatest assets a person can have if they want to generate change and make an impact, and as an engineer, I believe it is our duty to utilize that technology and make the world a better place.”

Marissa Lauren Boccher, BSAE ’17, Chesapeake, VA 

Read about Boccher's internship at NASA's Johnson Space Center


“The next big change, and quite possibly the biggest advantage, of this system, is that it will allow for continual propulsion in space. This can let our exploration of space go farther than ever before, as spacecraft with this engine will be able to accelerate to higher and higher velocities. Our space program currently tries to figure out how it can get to somewhere, and with this drive, the problem will instead be how long it would take or what to do with all of the time it takes to get there. With this drive, we could send unmanned devices to the far side of the galaxy to observe astronomical phenomenon closer than we ever had before, and to explore areas of space we have never been able to reach. This could have an effect upon our entire nation and even the world, pushing forward a new age of manifest destiny to the stars. Finally, the human race would have the means to truly travel the stars and explore the final frontier, and I want to be part of the team who helps humanity reach the stars we have been staring at in the night sky for centuries. I want to be a part of creating a future where interstellar and intergalactic is not just some idea in science fiction, but reality.”

 Zachary Watkins, BSAE’19, Severna Park, Maryland