University News

NASA Engineer to Visit SUU

Published: September 25, 2007 | Category: Special Events

In partnership with NASA’s Marshall Space and Flight School, Southern Utah University will host Dr. Pedro “Pete” Rodriguez on the campus of SUU Tuesday, October 2 in SUU’s Starlight Room at 10 a.m.

Rodriguez, NASA’s Deputy Manager of the Spacecraft and Vehicle Systems Department, will speak on teamwork and leadership, emphasizing NASA’s roles in modern society and business. This event is free and is open to the public.

Following Rodriguez’s appearance at SUU, he will visit Canyon View High School at 1:00 p.m. to speak in a student assembly.

Dr. Rodriguez is a top NASA Engineer, and is currently working on the design team for the new launch vehicles that will replace space shuttles that have been in use since 1981. According to Rodriguez, the current shuttle design will no longer be used in space expeditions by 2010. Rodriguez will bring drawings, photos and video of his most recent work in the spacecraft redesign, and plans to discuss the new opportunities this technology will introduce for aspiring professionals.

In addition to discussing these technologies, Rodriguez will also discuss the spin-off programs in education, medicine and technology NASA has influenced. From the dimples on golf balls to Velcro, the average person will be surprised at how often the nation’s space program impacts everyday life.

Along with educating the public on NASA initiatives, Rodriguez also plans to meet with students interested in engineering and in possible careers with NASA, and also with SUU faculty interested in obtaining grants. This speaking engagement is endorsed by the NASA Speaker's Bureau in Huntsville, AL.

According to SUU Professor Karyn Spencer, whose past contact with NASA’s Speakers Bureau is to credit for bringing Rodriguez to Cedar City, “Hosting someone as knowledgeable as Dr. Rodriguez is a distinct honor.” Both Spencer, Rodriguez and NASA hope to reach as many people as possible during these two speaking engagements, and encourage people from all over the area to attend.

If all goes well with Rodriguez’s visit to SUU this year, Spencer is hoping to continue an ongoing relationship with NASA in the way of speaking engagements and education in the Southern Utah area.

Prior to Rodriguez’s current assignment at NASA, he served as Manager of NASA’s Test Laboratory in the Engineering Directorate. Dr. Rodriguez is responsible for planning, performing and directing research development, design, evaluation, verification and integration of state-of-the-art spacecraft and vehicle systems for exploration missions. He is also responsible for managing the integrated technical design, development, test and evaluation of these systems.

As manager of the Test Laboratory, he was responsible for engineering services and facilities for environmental, structural and propulsion testing of NASA programs assigned to the Marshall Center. He manages and directed the research, development, qualification and acceptance testing of critical space and flight hardware, as well as the testing of relevant development hardware.

Previously, he was deputy manager of the Structures, Mechanics and Thermal Department in the Engineering Directorate. Previous positions include chief of the Structural Development Branch and chief of the Structural Design Division—both in the Engineering Directorate; manager of NASA's Meteoroid and Orbital Debris Technology Program; and lead systems engineer for the X-34 Experimental Launch Vehicle program. He also served as the chairman of the Solid Rocket Booster accident investigation team following the Space Shuttle Columbia accident in February 2003, and was a project manager for the Space Launch Initiative program.

He earned his bachelor's degree from the University of Puerto Rico in Mayagüez in 1976 and his master's degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Alabama in Huntsville in 1982. He earned his doctorate in civil engineering from the University of Mississippi in Oxford in 1997.

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