5 Influential Women in Engineering

By Jessica Bales 


According to the ISU enrollment statistics, fall semester 2014, only 15.2 percent of all engineering students are women.  That percent has remained steady for the past fourteen years.   It is no secret that women are a minority in the engineering field.  Despite women’s lack of presence in the field, they have been contributing to the field since its beginning.  Here is short list of 5 influential women in engineering:

Emily Warren Roebling was a civil engineer in the 19th century. Her husband was the original chief engineer of the Brooklyn Bridge; however after becoming paralyzed Emily became responsible for his duties.  She became the first female field engineer and lead the team to complete the Brooklyn Bridge.





Beulah Louise Henry, also an engineer in the 19th century, is known as “the lady Edison. She is credited with inventing the bobbin-free sewing machine, a doll with flexible arms, a doll with a radio inside, a typewriter that made copies without carbon paper, a vacuum ice cream freezer, and many other inventions.  She worked as an inventor and consultant for many companies which manufactured her inventions.






Hedy Lamarr, more commonly known as a 1930s and 1940s movie star, was also an inventor during that time. She is credited with inventing a frequency-hopping spread spectrum system of the U.S. Military during World War II. This invention served as the basis for modern technology which is used in Bluetooth, Wi-Fi connections, and wireless telephones.






Stephanie Louse Kwolek’s career at the DuPont Company spanned forty years and affected millions of people. She is most well-known for inventing poly-paraphenylene terephthalamide, or Kevlar, in 1965. For this invention she was the first woman to receive DuPont’s Lavoisier Medal.




Linda Y. Cureton is the current CEO and founder of   Muse Technologies Inc. She is also the former CIO of NASA. During her time at NASA, she served as the principal adviser to NASA, providing insight and leadership to some of the most brilliant scientists and engineers.  She has received numerous awards for her achievements and continues to be a leader in engineering, today.



From the Moon to Mars

By Phil Molnar 

The new rules have been a pretty hot topic on the team these last few months. The rules for the competition are analyzed heavily every year in order to develop our technical requirements, the constraints that drive our design. The addition of icy regolith in particular has been a challenge this year. The icy regolith, which is worth twice as much as the regolith, is obviously a very appealing objective. The difficulty is the depth. We have never seen a team dig deep enough on their own to hit where the icy regolith will be this year, but they never had a reason to. In fact, I would go as far to say that there isn’t an existing design from robots in at least the last 2 years built to effectively collect the icy regolith. This means the challenge given to us by NASA encourages completely new strategy. With rules encourages smart energy usage, I wouldn’t be surprised if the icy regolith is seen as a “siren’s call.” Still, I am excited to see teams attempt it this year! There is a huge opportunity for point profit.

The rules have been set up to make an optimal curve of performance based on weight and collection. If you collect 2.67 times as much regolith as you weigh, you make a profit on your robot. With the icy regolith, you only need 1.33 kg of material collected to robot weight. This means that heavier robots with the goal of collecting the deeper icy regolith have a good shot at being successful. In addition to mining methods that require the extra weight, there is a huge force related to trying to shear a rock from under all of the material above it. My prediction is that icy regolith collectors will be heavier with a very robust gathering system.

The other big changes we are paying a lot of attention to is the change to the autonomy rules. With point rewards equal to 167 kg of regolith or 83 kg of icy regolith, full autonomy is a major focal point in the competition. Where the judges want to see robots develop is autonomous systems that are more intelligent and less likely to fail. The systems must be capable of at least 2 fully autonomous runs in order to achieve maximum points, so a single run and a system failure no longer pass. The judges are also very clear about not using the walls. They have said it a lot. “There will be no walls on Mars.” I agree with that. In fact, I think that in some manner, the statement counters there logic as well. We cannot use the walls to find the robot’s orientation, sense them for navigation or even treat them as avoidable obstacles. They want us to digitally create a barrier in front of them and never see them again. The ruling I would like to see change is in regards to the wall that is in front of the collection bin. The collection bin, on Mars, would have no barriers blocking us. It would stand somewhere between 0.3 and 0.7 meters high, unimpeded by walls. That is 30 to 70 centimeters of detectable and totally usable collection bin. In the competition, we can use the space above the wall, which could be less than 5 centimeters of clearance.

In any case, the new autonomy rules will motivate teams to spend some time thinking about innovative ways to navigate around the arena using both fine and blunt instruments. I think that LIDAR will make a very strong showing this year in obstacle avoidance. I would bet there will be a plethora of visual targets attached to the bin as well. There will be mechanical systems to help make up for where sensors are missing, whether the tech is not ready or cost too much money. The thing I’m excited to see the most are the ideas that I haven’t thought of yet.

Design it. Build it. Dig it.

Philae Landing

By Brian Huk

First touchdown close up
First touchdown close up
How Philae Landed
How Philae Landed

Philae has landed intact on 67P! While the orbiting Rosetta probe is the primary science instrument in the ESA mission to comet 67P, Philae’s successful landing will give scientists the historic opportunity to directly sample the surface of a comet for the first time.

With Rosetta orbiting and Philae on the surface, our understanding of comets is sure to get a huge boost. Scientists will be also be able to analyze data collected from the mission to better understand the formation of our solar system, as well as a detailed look at how comets react to passing nearby the sun.

There’s also folks like us who know that space exploration won’t be able to proceed in a wider scope using resources indefinitely sourced from Earth. To make future missions feasible, eventually the resources needed to fuel them will need to come from off world – from the moon, other planets, asteroids, and even comets like the one Philae just landed on

You can check out some of the scientific instruments onboard both Philae and Rosetta here: