The Challenger Disaster

January 28, 1986, a day that will forever in infamy. While the teenage generation may find it difficult to recall the tragic events of this day, you would be hard pressed to find any person above the age of 25 who doesn’t remember where they were when they witnessed a tragedy. On January 28,1986, seven American heroes and pioneers were sent to an early grave at the hands of miscommunication and failure to heed the warnings of a few engineers. I am speaking, of course, about the Challenger incident. On January 28, 1986, the space shuttle Challenger took off and exploded in mid-flight, thus killing all seven of its crew members, one being a teacher, all on national television. The country sat back and watched in horror as the highly anticipated Challenger flight disintegrated before their eyes.

                Needless to say, after this tragedy, the causes of the explosion were a mystery. The entire country wanted the answers as to what wrong; NASA’s number one priority quickly became isolating and identifying the cause of the explosion. In September of 1988, D. A. Winsor published a paper entitled: “Communication Failures Contributing to the Challenger Accident: An example for technical communicators.” Only two years after the disaster, Winsor appeared to blow the lid off the whole mystery. In Winsor’s publication, he highlights the main technological aspects as to what went wrong, being the O-Ring, as well as highlighting several key communication mishaps and in some cases disregard that led to the events of that infamous day. Winsor also includes copies of the original memos sent between employees and managers, further outlining the communication errors that caused the untimely deaths of seven brave men and women.

                While Winsor’s publication was filled incredible information, there were several pieces of his publication that made a lasting impression on my persona. The first section I came across was entitled “EARLY RESPONSES TO BAD NEWS: DISBELIEF AND FAILURE TO SEND UPWARD.” In this section the initial disbelief at the fact that engineers had discovered malfunctions with the O-Ring before flight is discussed along with the Managements response to the engineers’ report. As the engineers continued to send letters to their managers for them to make decisions, their managers would the pass on the information to NASA headquarters displaying “little sense of urgency”. As time continued to pass on with the little to nothing happening in terms of solving the O-Ring problem, the management staff was finally convinced that the tests done to date were sufficient, implying that the management still did not perceive the O-Ring problem to be crucial. Winsor presents this information in light of showing the misinterpretation of the engineers information, presenting the idea that the disaster could have been entirely avoided had one person stepped up and treated the data with the significance it carried.

                The next essential section in Winsor’s publication was the section entitled “The Split Between Managers and Engineers.” The information conveyed in this section by Winsor only helps to show how the engineers continued treating the O-Rings as serious matters, yet the managerial staff treated it as “old news.” One engineer working on the project even opted for proposing a sort of embargo on the project- he proposed a refusal to ship any more parts or SRBs until the problem with the O-Ring was resolved, however he failed to communicate this to his superiors and the production continued along as planned. As the launch date grew closer and closer, the engineers and managers became more divided. Engineers continued to press for a launch delay until the O-Rings could be corrected while the managers failed to heed their warnings. One engineer was even quoted saying “that no one wanted to hear what I had to say.” Winsor argues and uses this evidence to further her argument on the necessity of effective communication.

                The final section of importance was a section entitled: “Internal Vs External Communication Of Concern From MTI Engineers”. As a way to prove the engineers inability to effectively communicate the magnitude of the O-Ring problem as well as the necessity for good communication, Winsor cites a memo and response by a NASA official who never had received a memo. The NASA employee went on record speaking of the memo’s failure to communicate its intent. However, the engineers also sent two memos to their superiors specifically to express the extent to which the dangers with the O-Rings lie. Memos were also sent out with data results from an experiment showing failure of the O-Rings at low temperatures. Winsor included this information and reaction by a NASA employee not only to show the fault that lies with the managerial staff in their inability to analyze technical data and interpret memos from their employees, but also for the need for better communication in technical disciplines such as engineering.

                As an Undergraduate student studying mechanical engineering, this article hits home for me. As a prospective future engineer, I could only imagine if I was in their shoes or if something similar to this happened to me in my future job. The article opened my eyes to my duty, as an engineer, to ensure that I am an effective communicator in my work environment. When I am working in the field in the future, I must ensure that I express myself in a clear and concise manor that will deny any possibility for interpretation other than my intended meaning.

                Winsor’s article proved to be a very informative piece that awakened a sense of fear and shame in me. To think that an entire disaster could have been avoided had one Manager just said “No” to launch or if just one engineer had been more explicit in their writing to their superiors. By writing an unbiased article on the causes of the Challenger disaster, Winsor showed how the blame for the disaster lay neither with the engineers or project managers. The blame is equally shared amongst them, and awareness must be raised in the technical fields about the importance and sensitivity of effective communication during any project, whether it’s a simple prototype or rocket science.


Mechanical Engineering!

Hello! My name is Kevin Jorge, and I am currently studying Mechanical Engineering at the University of Miami. Mechanical Engineering is the most general discipline of engineering and can be applied and incorporated with almost any of the other disciplines of engineering. Mechanical Engineering is a branch of engineering that applies physics as well as the science of materials for designing, analyzing, and manufacturing mechanical systems. Mechanical systems can be anything from engines to simple everyday tools. Mechanical Engineering also relies heavily on heat and mechanical power to design and create the mechanical systems and tools they design. Typically, knowledge of CAD (Computer Aided Design) Software is a must in this industry, as most of the design and cost analysis are done using technology and must first be designed on a computer.

Mechanical Engineering is a very exciting field, in my opinion. It is a progressive discipline of engineering, one that will always be around to pave the way for new inventions and maintain the benchmark of human ingenuity. As engineers, research is an essential “tool of the trade” used to gather data on how different things work and how to improve on them. Mechanical Engineering is a field that is always changing and advancing because it always involves making technology better. Mechanical engineering is an essential trade in the engineering of automobiles. This is the specific field that I would like to get into. Working with engines and making the most economical and efficient engines is a very important part of this field, and will have a major impact on the future for industries around the world. Mechanical Engineering is the basis of all machinery and technology that surrounds everything a human being interacts with. What i love about mechanical engineering, is that this field focuses on a crucial point of what our society thrives on.

Check out this application of Mechanical Engineering!

As the times continue to change and new inventions are being developed, the demand for innovative engineers has never been higher. One problem that I believe to be as one of the most pressing issues we humans face today is the issue of energy. As the world’s reliance on fossil fuels and non-renewable sources of energy continues to take its toll on the environment and people everywhere, we are literally in a race against time to come up with a solution to this problem. As a future engineer, it is our duty to assess and tackle such problems and create solutions that will benefit society as a whole and move us forward. In my opinion, there is no greater calling or job in life than to dedicate oneself to the betterment of others around you. As an engineer, I hope to change the world around me and know that I had a positive impact not only on my family and friends and those close to me, but an impact on the world as well.

CBS Detroit

By: Pat Caputo

1. With all due respect to Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr and Glenn Robinson III, the top-end players on the Fab 5 were much better. Chris Webber was a truly great player, a borderline Hall of Famer, who was just bigger and more athletic than any of the current Wolverines. Jalen Rose and Juwan Howard had long and successful NBA careers after playing brilliantly at Michigan.

2. The present Wolverines are probably a little better top-to-bottom in the usual playing rotation. Jimmy King and Ray Jackson rode the coatails of Webber, Rose and Howard. If it weren’t for The Big 3, The Fab 5 would have been The Forgotten 2.

3. The current edition of the Wolverines is more understated, but effective. The Fab 5 was all about flash and dash, in addition to their extraordinary success.

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Running in Stilettos

Motivation remains key to the marathon: the motivation to begin; the motivation to continue; the motivation never to quit.”

-Hal Higdon

Well, here goes nothing!  The P.F. Chang’s Phoenix Rock n’ Roll Marathon is Sunday!  Right now, I am drawing on every ounce of motivation I have to get me mentally prepared and to run the race!  I’m getting so excited- for me, it’s like the anticipation of Christmas morning :)! The really big gift, the one I’ve been dying for, will come at the finish line.


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