In the episode of Chalk Radio below, which was recorded in 2020, Professor Jeffrey Hoffman describes his experiences in space and how that experience has influenced his teaching of systems engineering.
Over the years, Sarah Hansen has interviewed the creator of the “Women of NASA” minifigure series as well as a professor of astronautics and former deputy administrator of NASA. Now, for the first time, she interviews an actual astronaut, Jeff Hoffman, who teaches aerospace engineering and systems engineering at MIT. In this episode, Prof. Hoffman describes his experiences in space and how one’s understanding of the world is changed by seeing it from the outside, as a finite sphere, with our seemingly boundless sky revealed as just a thin layer of breathable atmosphere. So far this broadening of physical perspective has been limited to a select few, but Prof. Hoffman tries to achieve an analogous broadening in his students’ mental perspective by introducing them to the Conceive Design Implement Operate (CDIO) framework, an approach to engineering education that uses student-designed-and-built projects to develop teamwork and professionalism and to help students envision the big picture of the systems being designed: what they are intended to be and how they will be used in the real world by actual people, whether on the ground or in the vacuum of space.