Martian engineering: it’s out of this world

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Engineering and technology students gathered together for the rare opportunity to listen to one of NASA’s jet propulsion engineers tell how they put a car size rover on Mars.

Todd Barber, an engineer from NASA’s jet propulsion laboratories, came to BYU as part of a lecture series to teach students about Curiosity, the rover that recently landed on Mars. He also talked about how they brought the rover to the martian surface and what instruments are built into it to continue exploration of the red planet and the possibilities it has for hosting all of the ingredients necessary for life to exist.

The event was a full house, with students standing in the back.

John Hickey, a senior in chemical engineering, enjoyed the lecture.

“(It was) Interesting . . . to see a lot of application of coding and integrate teamwork through different engineering disciplines and also seeing the application of a lot of my different subjects,” Hickey said.

Others saw the lecture as an opportunity to see how exciting the field of engineering can be.

Tasha Blake, also a senior in chemical engineering thought it was encouraging to see someone so excited about their career.

“It was exciting to see somebody who had a very successful career and is still excited about their job after several years in it,” Blake said.

Barber entertained the audience with his witty sense of humor, contagious enthusiasm and  his out-of-this-world dress shirt that was covered with designs of planets and galaxies. Barber showed everything from cartoons of martians to real time footage of Curiosity landing on Mars.

Ryan Marelli, a chemical engineering student from Las Vegas, said that Barber made science seem exciting through is presentation.

“You would think that science is very boring, but he made it into some thing really interesting,” Marelli said. “It was fun and he had all of these different aspects of engineering and he put it into one kind of lecture.”

However, the  presentation was not all jokes and video footage. Barber showed images of some of the more unique instruments that Curiosity uses such as ChemCam, a laser that can vaporize rocks from 30 feet away.  Curiosity also has a portable chemistry lab to perform tests on the elements and sediments that are found on the surface of the martian planet.

Hickey, Blake, and Marelli all agreed: Anyone who missed the lecture missed out on a great opportunity to listen to a successful engineer, not to mention the M&M cookies and free NASA merchandise.

 

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