Tech Check: The Mars Rover Curiosity

On August 5th, 2012 the most technologically advanced interplanetary rover landed on Mars. Its mission: determine if microbial life has ever been sustained on the red planet. To accomplish this goal, Curiosity is equipped with a multitude of laboratory equipment and tools.  This resulted in a much larger and heavier structure, which posed a greater challenge for landing the rover on Mars. Below is a graphic about the landing structure, which is a different design that anything used before.

descent structure

Like any lab, Curiosity requires energy to power its systems. The power source is not solar panels (as I first imagined they would be) but rather a battery that is constantly recharged by the heat from the radioactive decay of plutonium-238.

One of the functions performed by the rover is to take drill samples from the Martian surface (exciting stuff for all the geotechnical engineers out there!). Below is a photo of the area drilled by Curiosity. The rover’s ‘ChemCam’ will provide spectra information detailing the soils composition.

drill picture

Another function of Curiosity is that of a photographer. Like any photographer, an occasional self portait is necessary. The self portrait below gives us a good view of the rover as well as the Martian skyline.

curiosity self portrait

To see an interactive overview of Curiosity’s specs, go here.

For more pictures taken by Curiosity, go here.

Thanks for checking into this month’s hot topic! Please leave any suggestions or comments.


Women Take Charge of Windows

Despite the gender gap especially apparent in tech fields, two women have been selected to lead Microsoft’s Windows division. Julie Larson-Green and Tami Reller now are in charge of the most important part of Microsoft, which is a huge step for women in technology. Women are underrepresented in most engineering fields, but none have great disparity than the electrical spectrum (Electrical Engineering, Computer Engineering, Computer Science, Software Engineering, etc.).

It is great to acknowledge these women’s accomplishments in their field, but it is still frustrating that it has to be an anomaly for a woman to go into such a field, and become a leader on top of that. We must continue our outreach efforts so that girls know that they can enjoy working with computers, and that the field is just as open to them as it is to boys.

To read the full article, click here:

Sell Yourself in 30 Seconds

Is it time to start working on your career fair speech?  Do you know where you’re going to be interning (or starting full time) this summer?  With most semester students still on break, and quarter students staring their second week, it is hard for most to think about summer jobs already.  However, most employers are looking for students to hire at the upcoming career fairs that your school is hosting. So it’s time to start thinking about why they should hire you!

What are you interested in?

Why are you an engineer? What interests you in your field? Know the answers to these questions to figure out what kind of job you would like. Once you know what you want to do, then you can figure out figure out which companies focus on that area.

Research companies attending the career fair

The internet is a magical tool, and you should use it to research attending companies. They typically spell out what majors and qualities they want in their interns/employees. Remember what they’re looking for, and let people at the career fair know that you have the qualities they want in an employee. Think about examples as to how you’ve shown leadership, initiative, forward thinking, sustainability, etc.

What do you say?

Don’t cram your whole life into 30-seconds. Its great that you were named after your grandmother, and that you have a scar the shape of a star, but keep things relevant! In 30 seconds you need to mention your name (first only, less time), major, year and why you are looking at their company and why you’d be a good fit. Don’t mention your GPA or the thousands of clubs you’re involved in. That will be on your resume, which you should hand them immediately after shaking their hand. Mention what you’re passionate about in your field and tell them how your passion will be a great asset to their company.

Practice makes perfect!

Practice what you will say to a representative. Say you 30 second speech to your dog, your parents, your roommates, or even in the shower. You can never be too prepared! Also, when you’re at the career fair, approach a couple companies that you aren’t as interested in, just to get out your initial jitters. Then approach your number one choice, and you’ll sound and feel much more confident!

Do you have any tips for a stellar 30 second speech or working a career fair? Please post them in the comments below.

Good luck everyone!

Wanted: Women in STEM Careers

The following post is based on a Forbes article.

Even though the US economy is still struggling with unemployment at 7.8%, companies can’t find enough qualified applicants to fill STEM positions. The solution? Get girls interested in STEM. Women account for 20-25% of the STEM workforce today. The easiest solution is to get girls interested in the field at a young age, so they will continue on to college and eventually have a career in STEM.

Microsoft has been working hard to bridge the gap by providing camps for girls 13+. At these day camps they learn the variety of work that can be done in the computer science/electrical field. These camps have inspired many young women, and some have even come back to work for Microsoft after obtaining STEM degrees.

Another example is when NetHope set up an academy in Haiti to give hands-on technology training to local students for free. This lead to one of their students to start mentoring other women and girls interested in STEM fields.

To read the full article, go to

Attention STEM women of Utah!

The bad news is that women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields are underrepresented in Utah more so than in other states. The good new is that the state government is actively trying to change that! They have launched a new website ( to encourage women to pursue and obtain college degrees.

This effort is targeting young women interested in STEM and non-STEM fields.

Question for our Utah members: Do you feel more needs to be done to encourage women to obtain college degrees, and do you think this will help? All comments and thoughts are appreciated!

Read the full article at


Article: Women engineers and the influence of childhood technologic environment

This isn’t an article per se, but it is actually a really cool PhD Dissertation about how a technological based childhood environment can influence women to become engineers later on in life.  There were many women in our region that helped with this dissertation.

Women engineers and the influence of childhood technologic environment by Shahla Mazdeh from Drexel University.

Article: Girls Are Smarter Than Boys, So What Goes Wrong in Math and Science?

Here is an interesting article/blog post that shows an image talking about all the differences girls are in math and science fields.  It’s really interesting to see it put in that form, with all of the info lined up for you to see!

The author talks about how in elementary school, teachers tell us that generally speaking, boys are better at math and science and girls are better at writing and art.  But there doesn’t seem to be statistical proof of that.  In fact, as long as girls are not told that boys are better than them at a subject, they test just as well as the boys.  They tend to have higher grades and IQs than boys, yet by the time the graduate their self-confidence is lower and they question whether or not they can do science and math as well.

Let me know what you think of this!