On the 30th of May 2020, after four years of preparation, astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley lifted off at 3:22 p.m. EDT in the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Launching from Cape Canaveral in Florida, the monumental flight marked the first time in history that NASA astronauts have launched from American soil in a commercially built and operated American crew spacecraft on its way to the International Space Station.
“This is a dream come true for me and everyone at Space X,” said Elon Musk, chief engineer at SpaceX. “You can look at this as the results of a hundred thousand people roughly when you add up all the suppliers and everyone working incredibly hard to make this day happen.”
Known as NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2, the mission is described as an end-to-end test flight to validate the SpaceX crew transportation system. Acting as the first test of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon with astronauts aboard, the mission will hopefully pave the way for the regulation of crew flights to the station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
Meet Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley
The road to the launch of Demo-2 started over 20 years ago for chosen astronauts, Robert ‘Bob’ Behnken and Douglas ‘Doug’ Hurley. Both members of the NASA Astronaut class of 2000, Bob and Doug were already longstanding friends and lived almost parallel lives, making for the perfect team to break NASA’s nine-year hiatus of launching astronauts from US soil since the retirement of the last space shuttle in 2011.
Both men gained undergraduate degrees in engineering during their formative years. Bob earned two bachelor's degrees in physics and mechanical engineering in 1988 and 1992, a master's degree in mechanical engineering in 1993 and a doctorate in mechanical engineering in 1997. Doug graduated with a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering in 1988.
Despite going to different training schools, Doug and Bob went on to both be subsequently trained as military test pilots and would achieve the rank of colonel - Hurley in the Marine Corps, Behnken in the Air Force. This has been known as a standard background for Nasa’s astronauts since the days of their first intakes.
Together, the men had over 7,000 hours of flight experience in 25 different types of aircraft when they were selected to the same NASA astronaut class in July 2000. Over the next twenty years, Bob and Doug would continue to train side by side and gradually build the bond that NASA would trust with the responsibility of manning Demo-2.
Despite the hype surrounding Elon Musk's historic launch, the two NASA astronauts have largely hidden away from the spotlight. Adding to their list of similarities, Bob and Doug are also both married to fellow astronauts with each a young son. They even share the same taste in music.
“I wanted to make sure everyone at SpaceX understood and knew Bob and Doug as astronauts and test pilots but also as dads and husbands,” said Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s chief operating officer. “I wanted to bring some humanity to this very deeply technical effort as well.”
Lifting off from Launch Pad 39A, the two Astronauts accelerated to approximately 27,000 km/h before Crew Dragon followed its intercept course with the International Space Station. Bob and Doug were welcomed aboard the station after 19 hours of flight time, joining the Expedition 63 crew and becoming the first astronauts in history to ride a commercial craft into orbit.
The Demo-2 mission will be the final major step before NASA's Commercial Crew program certifies Crew Dragon for operation missions to the space station, laying the groundwork for future exploration of the Moon and Mars.
However, despite attention obviously being on the successful launch of the Demo-2, the reason for the SpaceX mission should not be forgotten. The two astronauts are there ultimately in the service of science and international research. Bob and Doug will take part in installing a new hardware platform called Bartolomeo, designed by the European Space Agency and Airbus to enable the ISS to host extra science experiments from teams all over the world.
“It was incredible,” NASA astronaut Bob Behnken said of the launch, moments after the spacecraft reached orbit. “Appreciate all the hard work and thanks for the great ride to space.”
In addition to the launch, SpaceX also successfully landed the Falcon 9 rocket booster. The booster is the large lower portion of the rocket, which re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere and landed on the company’s drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean. SpaceX has landed its Falcon 9 rocket boosters 45 times.
“This just the beginning; it’s only going to get better,” Bob Cabana, director of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, said before the launch.
The future of space travel is tipped to be exciting. Elon Musk founded SpaceX in 2002 with the ultimate goal of colonizing Mars. Before that, however, SpaceX is still contracted to assist NASA with five more crewed missions to the International Space Station.
The SpaceX and NASA partnership on the 30th of May taught us all something about rocket launches: No matter how many times a launch is performed, there is always an edge of excitement. Sparking the interest and curiosity of millions around the world, the human journey into space is one that never ceases to amaze.
A new era of space flight seems to be upon us, and that means that more engineers will be required to continue the development of one of the most exciting engineering sectors ever created. SpaceX seems to be leading the charge on space engineering but what else can we begin to expect?
With the continued progress of programs such as SpaceX and the upcoming opportunities being offered by NASA, there will be plenty of milestones made in the coming years. Each little discovery and invention will pave the way to a more space-filled future.
“NASA and SpaceX: Journey to the Future: NASA and SpaceX: Journey to the Future.” Discovery, go.discovery.com/tv-shows/nasa-and-spacex-journey-to-the-future/full-episodes/nasa-and-spacex-journey-to-the-future.
“Updates.” SpaceX, www.spacex.com/updates/crew-demo-2-mission-update-5-30-2020/.
A passionate electrical engineer and educator, Dr Yuanyuan Fan is a course coordinator and on-campus lecturer at EIT’s Perth campus in Australia, working to develop the future generation of industrial automation and electrical engineers.
Dr Fan studied at the North China Electric Power University, earning her bachelor degree in 2010, and subsequently her master’s degree in 2013. However, she had already been actively working in the electrical engineering sector as far back as 2006. She says that her passion for engineering stemmed from her love of physics at a young age.
“I chose to study engineering because my favourite subject in school was physics. Based on my understanding at that time, engineering was the closest career path in proximity to physics - especially the practical element of physics. I knew I chose the correct area the moment I started my bachelor degree,” she said.
Dr Fan has extensive knowledge in power system design, control, modelling and simulation. In her career, she has researched renewable energy, microgrids, HVDC and smart grids. She has published reports on offshore wind power and is passionate about the move away from environmentally damaging technologies to more sustainable and renewable means of powering the world. She explains:
“As far as sustainability is concerned, renewable energy is the future. The challenges in renewable utilisation are massive, although there are renewable projects all over the world. It is an area that deserves the most attention right now.”
In 2017, Yuanyuan undertook the challenge of earning her PhD in Electrical and Electronics Engineering at Curtin University in Perth, Western Australia and encourages young women to not be deterred from pursuing engineering careers.
“STEM should equally be for both boys and girls in schools. There is no reason that girls should be made to feel excluded from any subjects.” Dr Fan says.
“I was motivated to make a difference in society. That’s what kept me going,” she adds.
Since joining EIT in 2017, Yuanyuan has busily spent her days developing course curriculum, lecturing in the fields of electrical and automation engineering as well as supporting both online and on-campus higher education students through their engineering journeys.
EIT is thankful to our talented and driven academic staff for the hard work they put into delivering outstanding engineering education. Dr Fan is a leading example of dedication to her field whilst also actively contributing to the future of the engineering industry.
Opportunities in industrial automation are expected to exponentially increase as the global pandemic highlights the need to speed up the adoption of automation to ensure productivity. The shift in trends from traditional techniques to digitized systems has revolutionized supply chain management. Robotics and automated processes are helping companies operate more efficiently and are creating new avenues of work for engineering technicians, technologists and professional engineers. Companies are investing in automation technologies, such as robotics, smart sensors, industrial digital computers, and more, to keep their operations efficient. Automotive, retail, transportation & logistics, manufacturing, mining and the energy sectors have a renewed appetite to increase automated processes for cost optimization and productivity.
Adversely, instead of slowing down, some essential industries have had to increase production amid global lockdowns. The pandemic has highlighted the increasing need for industrial automation to keep industry operating as crises threaten more shutdowns in the future.
MarketandResearch.biz has posted a new report on the ‘Global Conveyor Equipment Market by Manufacturers, Regions, Type and Application, Forecast to 2025’. They report that manufacturing plants specifically are currently looking into the following technologies that might keep their supply chains in business:
Meeting the employability demands of automation
QS, a leading global education network has compiled a report entitled ‘How Artificial Intelligence is Influencing Graduate Employability’. The report encourages students to think about how artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) may replace jobs within industries and alludes to the fact that students need to master the fundamentals of AI and ML to future proof their careers. The report points out that employers are seeing the cost-benefit of employing and utilizing technologies that utilize AI. The report reads:
“Overall, 67% of employers feel that by the year 2030 AI will indeed provide a more cost-effective alternative to highly skilled jobs, showing that almost two-thirds regard AI as a threat to the graduate labour market. “
However, most experts are confident that AI-based software systems will not replace highly skilled positions, but rather help augment the work that engineers and workers undertake within an organization. Therefore, staying abreast of the technical side of automation software and technologies is important for the technician, technologist or engineer. The ability of employees to be ready and prepared for the next generation of emerging jobs, as a consequence of automation, is the mark of a transformative engineering professional.
The industries showing immediate automation appetite
Oil and Gas company Cairn India accounts for approximately 25 per cent of India’s domestic crude oil production. India has had one of the more stringent lockdowns in the world. Cairn India went from having a mammoth 7,500 personnel on-site, to having just 1,500 personnel since the lockdown was announced.
The oil industry, in general, saw incredible swings during the global lockdowns. Not only did the price per barrel of oil stoop to a historic low, but engineers were also forced off plants. “The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on lives and livelihoods. The engineering work landscape has been rapidly evolving, and the pandemic has accelerated and changed the landscape in ways we are only beginning to understand,” says ASME Executive Director/CEO Tom Costabile. “Engineers are applying technologies including artificial intelligence, robotics, and 3D printing to help respond to the public health crisis, and also to adapt processes in many industrial sectors and transform supply chains for the future.”
Talking to the Economic Times India, the chief digital officer of Cairn, Anand Laxshmivarahan said: “In the post-COVID-19 world, the focus has shifted to cost optimization; the only place companies are willing to invest is in automation.”
The Economic Times India says Tata Steel, Ceat Tyres, Maruti, Mahindra, Toyota and Tata Motors have looked into how to continue further automating their production lines as a consequence of the pandemic and lockdowns. Human resource officers from those companies quizzed on how the pandemic was affecting them are all clear: digitisation and automation is now the name of the game. The renewed push to automate even more of the automotive sector is in line with the reports on the Global Conveyor Equipment Market forecasts.
When companies invest in new technologies, engineering professionals confront new challenges in their employment and this highlights the need for high-quality training and education in the area. While several pathways will lead to a career in industrial automation engineering, most universities only offer this specialisation as a Masters. However, EIT offers advanced diplomas, bachelors and masters specifically focussed in industrial automation. Or, for those who wish to upskill via an intensive short course, EIT’s three-month online Professional Certificate of Competency in Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) & SCADA Systems highlights recent developments, using case studies, and the latest application of SCADA, PLC technologies and fundamentals.
Bhattacharyya, Rica, and Lijee Philip. “Automation Key to Post-Pandemic Production.” The Economic Times, Economic Times, 27 Apr. 2020, economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/company/corporate-trends/automation-key-to-post-pandemic-production/articleshow/75395665.cms?from=mdr.
“Global Conveyor Equipment Market 2020 by Manufacturers, Regions, Type and Application, Forecast to 2025.” Marketandresearch.biz, www.marketandresearch.biz/report/130737/global-conveyor-equipment-market-2020-by-manufacturers-regions-type-and-application-forecast-to-2025.
Johnson Itumeleng is an industrial electrician from Botswana who recently graduated from the Engineering Institute of Technology with a 52726WA - Advanced Diploma of Electrical Engineering. He currently works for the Debswana Orapa Mine.
“I chose this course because I have always wanted to be an electrical engineer. My studying experience with EIT has been consistently good. EIT has a lot to offer and is very capable. I have learned a lot, and I am executing my daily work in a much more professional manner with what I have learned from EIT. I am recommending to my workmates to enroll in this course — one of my colleagues is actually already enrolled, in fact,” he said.
Johnson had immense respect for his grandmother as he grew up. He also had an affinity for engineering — specifically electrical engineering. With his grandmother encouraging him, and a dream to succeed in engineering, he was able to work hard and succeed at earning his advanced diploma with EIT.
“Kebatlhokile Dorothy Thatoyarona was a great inspiration and my motivator. She was my grandmother. She always believed in me and guided me throughout life until she passed in 2018. My love for engineering stemmed from my school years. I finished high school in 2003. I knew since I completed a school design project that I would like to do something with electricity,” he said.
Johnson has always been determined to figure out technological challenges. Ready and prepared to deal with technology through a more hands-on approach, Johnson started his career in engineering as an apprentice in Orapa Training Centre in 2007. The facility trains apprentices not only for Debswana mines but for other organizations across the country. Debswana is the world’s leading producer of gem diamonds.
The training facility provides their apprentices with significant on the job training in the mining sector. In 2012, after spending four years as an apprentice, he became employed by Debswana in the Power Distribution sector. He is responsible for supplying high voltage to the three mines and maintaining the HV equipment.
Acutely aware that he had to continue growing his theoretical knowledge and combine it with his ongoing practical experience, Johnson enrolled in the 52626WA - Advanced Diploma in Electrical Engineering with EIT.
Johnson says that he is gearing up to continue his academic and practical journey to becoming a fully qualified engineer. He has expressed interest in registering for the Bachelor of Science (Electrical Engineering) with EIT. By 2025, he aims to have earned that engineering title.
The Engineering Institute of Technology (EIT) is committed to encouraging women to join the engineering industry and supporting our students throughout their respective journeys.
In 2017, the World Economic Forum released reported that while approximately 20% of engineering graduates are women, only 13% of the engineering workforce is female. While the industry is still very much dominated by males, it is still worth reflecting on the work that has already been done by females to change this, one step at a time.
Australia’s first female electrical engineer, Florence Violet McKenzie, had an incredible career that was characterized by her contribution to encouraging women to become engineers, and for her wireless communication efforts in World War II.
In the early 1930’s she was the only female member of the Wireless Institute of Australia, which is where she took her electrical wiring knowledge and expanded on that by studying the chemistry of television. She joined the Women’s Engineering Society — the only society in the world, pushing for the representation of females in the engineering industry — and from there, she founded an educational initiative named the Electrical Association for Women.
When the war broke out, she used her qualifications and teaching skills to form the Women’s Emergency Signalling Corps, to help women become skilled in wireless communications, which would assist the military in the war. She and some of her trainees managed to form the Women’s Royal Australian Naval Service (WRANS) – this was the first time that women were allowed to join the navy, and the urgent need for telegraphists meant they were relied upon heavily. By the end of the war, WRANS represented 10% of the entire Royal Australian Naval Force.
By training up thousands of women in telegraphy, Florence paved the way for women to pursue careers in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) industries.
EIT wants to continue creating female spiritual successors of Florence Violet McKenzie in the modern engineering world. We hope to cultivate the engineering skills of school leavers and already-working engineering professionals and help elevate them into long-lasting engineering careers.
One of those ‘spiritual successors’ is EIT’s Student Ambassador for 2020, Mildred Nanono. She is a Control and Instrumentation Engineer at Eskom Uganda Limited (EUL), who completed her Master of Engineering (Industrial Automation) with us in 2018.
She said she finds pride in her work, which involves keeping the lights on for 40% of the Ugandan nation.
“I had always wanted to be part of a team, contributing to the power sector. Given the small number of ladies in the sector, I was motivated to join the male-dominated field to make my contribution toward national development,” Mildred said.
Tough times call for innovative measures
EIT has continued to deliver courses as usual throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, despite many institutions being forced to close, thanks to our revolutionary online training methodology that we have developed over the past 15 years.
With our practical online learning model, there is no reason why educating women in engineering has to cease just because of tough times — something Florence Violet McKenzie masterfully demonstrated during World War II.
EIT’s Deputy Dean, Indumathi V, is a shining example of a woman who is ceaselessly passionate about engineering education and ensuring women feel empowered enough to consider a career in the industry.
“I am a strong advocate for girls and women in engineering, also encouraged by being a mum of two young girls and a boy myself. I strongly believe that it is important for young girls from a schooling age to be aware of the various career options and study pathways available to them and to ensure they understand that they are capable of taking on technical roles and STEM fields,” she said.
If you are looking to study engineering and have identified a course you think would be perfect for growing your skills, you may be eligible for a scholarship. Women studying our higher education degrees can apply for our Women in Engineering scholarship. If successful, you will receive mentorship from one of our female engineers, plus a financial incentive. Both currentand prospectivestudents can apply for these scholarships.