National Engineers Week Banquet @CSUCI

It was a great pleasure to Emcee the National Engineers Week of Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties banquet at CSU Channel Islands (CI). This was the 45th annual engineering week dinner, and the second year (in a row) that it took place at CI.

Thank you to my colleagues Jason Isaacs and Houman Dallali, and their students Adan Sanchez, Alexandra Collette and Nicole Dubin for a display of the student engineering projects at CI. We were delighted to announce that we are welcoming the first cohort of Mechatronics students in the fall of this year (2018). It was especially appropriate to welcome engineers from the local businesses and the local Navy bases at CI, as we pursue three interdependent missions:

  • Scholarship
  • Teaching
  • Engagement in the community

The pièce de résistance event of the evening was a keynote address by  Dr. Adam Steltzner, NASA Engineer with Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Dr. Steltzer is a renowned engineer who led the team responsible for the Curiosity Rover’s successful landing on Mars (the EDL: Entry, Descent, Landing system); the famous 7 Minutes of Terror. Last year Dr. Steltzer was named to the National Academy of Engineering.

It was a great honor to meet Dr. Steltzer and listen to a first hand account of the mission.

Why is it called the 7 Minutes of Terror? In just seven minutes, NASA’s six-wheeled rover called Curiosity, must go from 13,000 mph as it enters the Martian atmosphere to a dead stop on the surface.

During those seven minutes, the rover is on its own. Earth is too far away for radio signals to make it to Mars in time for ground controllers to do anything. Everything in the EDL system must work perfectly, or Curiosity will not so much land as go splat. The team that invented the EDL system, led by Dr. Steltzer, has spent nearly 10 years perfecting it.

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