Speaking to Engineers of Tomorrow
I had the honor of being a guest speaker at the University of Alabama in Huntsville this week for a great group of soon-to-be engineers who are here for a special summer gathering in Huntsville. NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center has great summer programs for the brightest engineering students from all around the country. The programs are called the NASA Robotics Academy at Marshall Space Flight Center and NASA Propulsion Academy at Marshall Space Flight Center.
We have participated in this program for a few years now, back when I was running Orion Propulsion, and at Dynetics. Dynetics currently has students from this program working our Rocket City Space Pioneers Google Lunar X PRIZE rover suspension design. Frank Six with NASA invited me a few years ago to come and speak to his Academy students about the importance of real-world engineering. Frank knew that my passion was building flight hardware that was going to make fire and smoke. He knows that I am a fan of modeling and simulation and theory, but at the end of the day, someone has to bend metal and make chips in the shop.
I have a few sayings. One of them is: “Modeling is great, but you won’t be leaving the planet straddling a keyboard or laptop. Something has to be built!” Building hardware that is affordable to accomplish great feats in aerospace really gets my juices flowing, and that is why I always worked for smaller companies that did many R&D efforts, and eventually started Orion Propulsion. The testimony is a perspective that resonates with many, so I enjoy spreading the fire and smoke message all over the country when asked. I want to see people figure out how to keep our nation innovative. People need to try things! Yes, some things will not work, but lessons will be learned. Failure breeds greatness in the right climate.
I shared with these bright students many of the lessons learned over my last 20 years in the aerospace field. After the talk was over, I had a good time gathering with students and answering the non-technical questions they asked me. Heck, they even asked for my 20-year-old daughter's phone number. I guess I better get those family pictures out of my PowerPoint.
Let’s always remember: Huntsville is the Rocket City, and it is no coincidence that people come to Huntsville for our unique culture and technical chemistry. We are fortunate that Huntsville has the Right Stuff!