By Joyce Light
This past January, members of MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics Department Class of 2020 traveled to the Seattle and Los Angeles areas on the department's fourth annual Independent Activities Period trip.
Having begun this tradition in 2014, each year the department takes its sophomore class of recently declared aerospace engineering majors to visit select industry and government partners. For the vast majority of the department's students, this is the first opportunity they have to speak with, and learn from, engineers working in the field.
The trip also is an opportunity for the students to step away from the purely academic, and to hear technical and business perspectives of key industry players.
While in Seattle, the group visited both the traditional and the novel, including Amazon Prime Air, Blue Origin, and Boeing's Everett factory, with a final stop at the Future of Flight Aviation Center and a talk by Course 16 alumnus Matt Knapp, founder and aero chief engineer of Zunum Aero.
Moving down the coast, the group toured three Northrop Grumman locations: Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems in Palmdale, Scaled Composites in Mojave, and Space Park in El Segundo. Other companies who generously opened their doors to the 46 students and eight chaperones included SpaceX and Boeing Satellite Systems, while the Jet Propulsion Laboratory hosted what was, as always, an amazing visit. New this year was a visit to The Aerospace Corporation, where more than 70 MIT alumni joined the group to mix, mingle, and learn about what's going on in Cambridge.
Joyce Light is senior adminstrative assistant in AeroAstro Department headquarters and organizer of the IAP West Coast trip.