Four Members of HPC Support Staff Took a Day Trip to SpaceX
On April 4, 2019, HPC Director Asya Shklyar took four members of the HPC Support Staff to visit SpaceX in Hawthorne, Los Angeles. In order to beat the notorious South LA traffic, Asya arranged for an afternoon meeting in Hermosa Beach where she treated the four staffers – Chris Nardi (Pomona, Economics), Lindsey Tam (Pomona, Mathematics), Nicole Talisay (Pomona, Computer Science), and Amin Nash (CGU, English) – to a few hours on the beach and a very delicious dinner at Abigaile. Students enjoyed healthy meals of roasted salmon, mushroom meatballs, and scallops with beautiful views of the ocean.
After dinner, the students were off to Hawthorne to visit SpaceX. Asya introduced the students to Jesse Keller, who worked in one of the managing departments of SpaceX and was very enthusiastic to show the students around the campus. Jesse gave an overview of SpaceX from its first rocket launch in 2010 to its current state of producing more than three (3) rockets a month, pointing out that the primary focus of SpaceX was to always push their mission forward and think big. The students got to see the different engines being manufactured and the immense attention to details each engine contained – from the exhausts to the bearings. The students also got to engage with 3D printers that printed in metal (fun fact: In The Know Lab uses a smaller printer that uses resin and filament instead of metal), all while watching engineers work on the cockpits of future space shuttles.
One of the biggest takeaways from the trip was Jesse’s explanation of how SpaceX was committed to making the technology that makes the rockets, and not exactly create the rockets themselves. He compared this to a similar model for Tesla, where they were interested in a way to produce more electric cars instead of changing the technology of the vehicle. With this in mind, Jesse showed the students the various technologies that helps engineers and mechanics produce the various parts of the rocket. The end of each production level can be compared to making a Lego rocket, where each individual piece can be “attached” together easily and efficiently. The most important thing is that each part works extremely well!
The trip, as a whole, was fun and engaging. The students got to see the various real-world implications that goes into planning, inventing, and innovating a space craft, as well as the administrative and management side of the entire process. Various equipment – such as the 3D Printer and other technologies – are available in Pomona at an educational level, and they are actively used in a bigger platform such as SpaceX. All in all, the students got to engage and connect with one another in Hawthorne while also learning about a large-scale operation with big plans for the future.