A student walks past Sibley 150 celebration banners and Upson Hall, home of the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, which is celebrating 150 years of mechanical engineering at Cornell.

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Sibley School kicks off 150 anniversary celebration, unveils space podcast

Upson Hall Lounge was filled with students, faculty and staff on Nov. 27 as the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering held a kick-off event for their months-long celebration of the 150th anniversary of mechanical engineering at Cornell. The evening also doubled as the official launch of a new space technology podcast hosted by two faculty members.

Doctoral student Hannah James and M.Eng. student Perebo Altraide show off a new T-shirt design honoring the Sibley 150 celebration.

David Erickson, the S.C. Thomas Sze Director of the Sibley School, hosted the event and noted that within a few short years of issuing their first undergraduate degrees in the early 1870s, Cornell had graduated one-fifth of the nation’s mechanical engineers. “Cornell played a formative role in inventing how mechanical engineering was taught,” Erickson said. “And we are still leading the way with innovative instruction and hands-on learning.”

Erickson explained that Monday, Nov. 27, was chosen for the kick-off celebration and the release date for the new podcast because it marked 150 days before the school’s big “Sibley 150” celebration on April 25, 2024. Erickson announced that the April celebration will feature Sibley School alumni Bill Nye ‘77, the famed science popularizer, climate advocate and television personality, along with other graduates of the Sibley School.

Following Erickson’s remarks, Mason Peck, the Stephen J. Fujikawa Professor of Astronautical Engineering, and Elaine Petro, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, took the stage to discuss their new podcast, “Spaceflight Mechanics: The Cornell Space Technology Podcast.”

Sibley School faculty members, from left, Mason Peck, Dmitry Savransky and Gregory Falco discuss the new Spaceflight Mechanics podcast during a celebration event for the school.

On the podcast, Petro and Peck, who was formerly NASA’s chief technologist, interview other space technologists, including Sibley School colleagues like Dmitry Savransky, associate professor, and Gregory Falco, assistant professor, who joined them on stage to celebrate the show’s launch.

When asked by an audience member how he came to study space, Savransky’s quick reply seemed to capture the feelings of the entire panel. “Space is awesome,” he said. “It is objectively cool. I challenge anyone in this audience to walk up to that microphone and say that space isn’t cool. They would be wrong.”

New episodes of “Spaceflight Mechanics” will soon be available on all major podcasting platforms.

The school will spend the next 150 days celebrating its rich history and looking forward to what Erickson is calling “Sibley 300.” Students and alumni are being asked to share their vision for the next 150 years of the Sibley School and mechanical and aerospace engineering at Cornell. Other themes to be highlighted in the months leading up to the major April celebration are imagining a possible Cornell Engineering Lunar Lab, expanding even further the affordability and accessibility of degrees in mechanical and aerospace engineering, and further incorporating applied engineering education in hands-on learning labs.

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