NASA Boosts Society's 50th Anniversary

A commemorative pin made to recognize the anniversary was blasted into space aboard the Endeavor Space Shuttle

7 February 2008
ems02 The EMC Society's pin, mounted on a plaque made by NASA. Photo: Michael A. Robinson

Most IEEE societies celebrate their major anniversaries with, say, a commemorative pin or a plaque and perhaps a special event. But the IEEE Electromagnetic Compatibility Society took its 50th anniversary celebration last year to new heights. With the help of NASA, one of the lapel pins made to recognize the anniversary was blasted into space on 8 August aboard the Endeavor Space Shuttle.

Upon the shuttle’s return, NASA had the pin mounted on a plaque along with a commemorative NASA patch as well as photos of Endeavor signed by the astronauts who had made the flight. The agency presented the plaque to the society, and it was shown off at a ceremony on 14 January at the IEEE Operations Center, in Piscataway, N.J. It is scheduled to remain on display there for a few months.

“I’m very proud that we were able to get our pin on board a shuttle,” says Andy Drozd, the society’s 2007 president. “It was definitely a milestone for our society.”

The astronauts on the 13-day Endeavor mission, launched from the Kennedy Space Center, in Cape Canaveral, Fla., helped in the construction of the International Space Station, and they brought supplies for the station’s crew.

For a shuttle’s electronics to work together without any degradation of performance depends heavily on NASA’s engineers applying EMC principles, points out IEEE Fellow Donald Heirman, a former president of the society. Society members study the environmental effects of electronic systems, and they design systems to operate without interfering with each other. So the chair of the celebration committee, Senior Member Daniel Hoolihan, sought to involve a space shuttle with the society’s celebration. Hoolihan is also a former president of the society.

The first hurdle was not that high. Hoolihan discovered that the space agency routinely allows nonprofit organizations to put items on board shuttles, provided they fit in a container no bigger than a cigar box. The anniversary committee initially planned to put an EMC beach towel on the shuttle, but that idea was nixed because of the size requirement.

The next hurdle was more difficult. NASA had to give its approval to accept the pin, says Drozd, an IEEE Fellow.

“You need someone at NASA who believes in your effort and can help with the application process,” he explains. That’s where Bob Scully, who is on the society’s board of directors, came in. Scully is a senior engineer at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, in Houston. With his help, the agency agreed to put the pin on the next available shuttle.

“It was my privilege to have been able to coordinate this,” Scully said in a statement read by Drozd during the plaque-presentation ceremony at the Operations Center. Added Life Fellow Warren Kesselman, the society’s cofounder, former president, and current treasurer, “I think the society’s founders who are still around really appreciate the fact that our society was commemorated this way. I know I do.”

ems01 [Left to right] Former presidents of the EMC Society Dan Hoolihan and Andy Drozd, 2008 IEEE President Lewis Terman, 2008 President-Elect John Vig, and society cofounder Warren Kesselman show off the 50th anniversary plaque at a ceremony at the IEEE Operations Center, in Piscataway, N.J. Photo: Michael A. Robinson
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