“I cannot say enough good things about the keynote speaker. Probably the best keynote speaker I have ever seen. He was extremely interesting and very personable. I was captivated during his entire talk. Great choice for a keynote!” So said one of the many teachers attending the 2014 NWO Symposium on STEM Teaching held at Bowling Green State University on November 1. The annual Symposium featured a keynote presentation from NASA Engineer Kobie Boykins, one of the pioneer engineers with NASA’s ongoing Mars Exploration program, and a mechanical engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Few events in the last decade of space exploration have captured the world’s imagination like NASA’s ongoing Mars Exploration Program. In 2004, the successful deployment of the Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, launched a new era of scientific investigation of the Earth’s nearest planetary neighbor. For Boykins, the rovers’ success was also a personal triumph: he helped design and build the solar arrays that enabled to rovers to keep going long after their planned 90-day life. Remarkably, Opportunity is still roaming Mars today and sending back images, more than nine years later.
Boykins’ boundless enthusiasm for unraveling the mysteries of outer space, and Mars in particular, was infectious. In his keynote presentation, “Exploring the Red Planet: Engineering, Innovation, and Perseverance”, he shared his passion for space exploration by recounting the design and construction of the rovers and the story of their successful missions.
Boykins is currently intimately involved with NASA’s latest venture to Mars, as supervisor of the mobility and remote sensing mast teams for the Mars Science Laboratory, better known as Curiosity. Curiosity landed on Mars in August 2012 and has already made headlines with evidence that conditions on Mars, including the presence of water, once could have supported life. For his work on this and other compelling projects, Boykins last year received a NASA Exceptional Service Medal, one of the highest honors given to NASA employees and contractors.