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UC's Next Giant Leap celebration a huge success

The department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics at the University of Cincinnati commemorated the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, the 90th anniversary of the department, and the 200th anniversary of UC in a three-day celebration in late August.

“UC Aerospace is the second oldest aerospace engineering program in the country. The department is proud of its rich history and contributions to the development of the aerospace engineering profession,” said interim department head Kelly Cohen. “This event underscored our relationship to our remarkable history and notable faculty, amazing alumni and bright future.”

The celebration began with aerospace alumni attending a tailgate party before the UC vs. UCLA football game at Nippert Stadium. Neil Armstrong’s sons, Mark and Rick Armstrong, served as honorary captains for the Bearcats, flipping a NASA commemorative coin at midfield. Neil Armstrong served as an aerospace engineering faculty member at UC from 1971 to 1979.

Rick and Mark Armstrong served as honorary captains at the coin toss before the University of Cincinnati vs. UCLA football game at Nippert Stadium.

Rick and Mark Armstrong served as honorary captains at the coin toss before the University of Cincinnati vs. UCLA football game at Nippert Stadium. Photo/Corrie Stookey/CEAS Marketing

During the game won by the Bearcats, UC invited the honorees onto the field to recognize them in front of a packed crowd of 38,032 fans. The honorees were three former aerospace department heads, Paul Orkwis, Awatef Hamed and Gary Slater, the Armstrong brothers, and two alumni who were students of Armstrong’s, Ralph Spitzen and Tom Black.

Honored on the field during the UC vs. UCLA football game were, from left to right, Gary Slater, Paul Orkwis, Rick Armstrong, Awatef Hamed, Ralph Spitzen, Mark Armstrong, and Tom Black. P

Honored on the field during the UC vs. UCLA football game Gary Slater, left, Paul Orkwis, Rick Armstrong, Awatef Hamed, Ralph Spitzen, Mark Armstrong, and Tom Black. Photo/Corrie Stookey/CEAS Marketing

Friday’s activities began with ribbon cuttings for two new UC aerospace research labs.

To start the day, Black, who is also a current faculty member, welcomed alumni, students, and department supporters to the new Flight Simulation and Control Lab. The lab offers a huge screen with realistic flight controls for students to gain experience developing an aircraft and simulate its performance.

Next, professor Ou Ma welcomed the crowd to his new Intelligent Robotics and Autonomous Systems Lab (RIAS). The RIAS lab features intelligent robotics technologies for aerospace and other applications, including physics-based mixed reality, intelligent robotics enhanced smart manufacturing processes and space robotics, and spacecraft control techniques.

Tom Black (far right) and students cut the ribbon for the opening of the Flight Simulation Control Lab.

Tom Black (far right) and students cut the ribbon for the opening of the Flight Simulation Control Lab.

Guests observe research in the newly opened Intelligent Robotics and Autonomous Systems lab.

Guests observe research in the newly opened Intelligent Robotics and Autonomous Systems lab. Photo/Joe Fuqua II

About 100 alumni, friends and current aerospace students then gathered in the West Pavilion of Nippert Stadium for a luncheon that featured personal stories from attendees who were taught and mentored by Neil Armstrong. To end the event, Mark Armstrong spoke about his father and donated several items to add to UC’s substantial Neil Armstrong collection.

Done Eyles addresses the lunch crowd in the Nippert Stadium West Pavilion. Eyles was responsible for writing the software for the lunar descent and landing of Apollo 11 among many others.

Don Eyles addresses the lunch crowd in the Nippert Stadium West Pavilion. Eyles was responsible for writing the software for the lunar descent and landing of Apollo 11 among many others.

A remarkable panel then took place in front of a packed room in the Tangeman University Center. Panelists included Don Eyles who programmed the Apollo lunar landing software, John McCollough, director of the NASA’s Exploration Integration and Space Directorate at Johnson Space Center, Don Benko, Boeing’s supply program manager, and Paul Nielsen, retired Air Force Major General and director of the Software Engineering Institute.

The panel discussed the future of human space exploration, the political forces involved, how upcoming engineers can contribute to future goals, and also answered questions from attendees, including students from nearby Walnut Hills High School.

A remarkable panel then took place in front of a packed room in the Tangeman Student Union. Panelists included Don Eyles who programmed the Apollo lunar landing software, John McCollough, director of the NASA’s Exploration Integration and Space Directorate at Johnson Space Center, Don Benko, Boeing’s supply program manager, and Dr. Paul Nielsen, retired Air Force Major General and director of the Software Engineering Institute.

Attendees enjoyed an amazing panel hosted by Gary Slater. Left to right are Slater, Apollo mission software programmer Don Eyles, NASA director of Exploration Integration and Science Directorate John McCullough, Lockheed Space Human Space Exploration and Orion program manager W. Michael Hawes, Boeing supply program manager Don Benko, and retired US Air Force Major General and director of the Software Engineering Institute Paul. Nielsen.

Current aerospace students then showcased their research at a cocktail reception. Attendees learned of challenges the students are trying to solve. Eyles, who wrote a memoir of the Apollo program, and Armstrong biographer James Hansen were on hand to sign copies of their best-selling books.

Aerospace engineering students presenting their current research to attendees.

Aerospace engineering students presented their current research to attendees.

To close out Friday, Hansen presented a keynote address on the life of Neil Armstrong to about 100 dinner attendees after introductions from Cohen and College of Engineering and Applied Science Dean John Weidner.

New York Times best-selling biographer of Neil Armstrong, Jim Hansen gives the keynote address at Friday's dinner.

New York Times best-selling biographer of Neil Armstrong Jim Hansen gives the keynote address at Friday's dinner.

The final event of the celebration was a Moonfest Matinee on Saturday morning featuring two Armstrong documentary films. Armstrong, featuring never-before-seen family home-movie footage, and The Armstrong Tapes, which featured Hansen, friends, family and archival tapes of Armstrong.

The entire celebration was a huge success thanks to the event committee, UC Alumni Association, UC Athletics, the gracious participants, and attendees

Cohen made a point of thanking four contributors.

“This event was such a big success especially due to the remarkable ideas and contributions of Ann Terry, Ralph Spitzen, Teresa Meyer and Nate Jorgensen,” Cohen said.

Stay up to date on UC’s remarkable aerospace engineering department at the department website.