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Yes, it’s rocket science

Since Dr. Dimitri Mavris took the stage yesterday at the Innovators’ Summit, I’ve heard nothing but wonderful things about his talk. In fact, even John Sall called Dr. Mavris his hero.

And why not? Dr. Mavris runs Georgia Tech’s Aerospace Systems Design Lab, where industry and academia come together like nowhere else. And Mavris finds a way to combine creativity and engineering, fostering the creation of perhaps the world’s most advanced systems within systems designs.

Mavris described the “aha” moment that led to today’s advanced use of visual analytics at ASDL. He recalled, many years ago, reading a DOE book on experimental design in biotechnology. It occurred to him to ask: “Can I do that with rockets?”

Mice merged into rockets and the rest is history. Mavris showed a pyramid to illustrate today’s process of innovation at ASDL. He described the bottom -- the widest part -- as the incubation period. The middle section is where proofs of concept live, he said. And the top of the pyramid is where industry comes into play. “Industry is not looking for blue-sky stuff,” he said.

Industry is looking for help creating advanced designs in aerospace and beyond. In fact, sponsored projects total some $12 million a year. And the lab handles about 40 concurrent projects.

While the relationship with aerospace industry leaders is imperative to success at ASDL, so, too is the connection to thought leaders like those at the Innovators’ Summit. Looking around the room, Mavris said: “My problems get solved with techniques and methods that this community created.”

From what I heard at the Summit, Mavris’ techniques and methods are soon going to solve other problems as well. Perhaps Mavris’ rockets will be someone else’s shampoo, office furniture or calculators.

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