Caltech engineers celebrate 100 years

first_imgPASADENA – Caltech is bringing out the birthday candles this week for the hundred-year anniversary of its mechanical engineering department. The two-day festivities will feature not only the work of its students and faculty in the department today, but also its generations of alumni. “The mechanical engineering department has contributed to a wide range of projects through the years, particularly after the Second World War,” said Chris Brennen, a longtime mechanical engineering professor.Caltech’s mechanical engineers also specialized in studying high-speed flow, helping design the pumps necessary to build the aqueduct from the Colorado River to Los Angeles, and for the space shuttle main engine. These days, Brennen said, “things have moved on to an even wider range of different subjects. Modern mechanical engineering is spreading into areas associated with biology, very small things, and very large complex systems.” Caltech projects include developing autonomous rescue vehicles and robots for medical applications. “Mechanical engineering has always done machines, always done energy and always done mechanics,” said Melanie Hunt, the department’s current head. “We’ll continue to do those things, but hopefully looking at problems that people don’t look at in other universities.” 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Friday’s celebrations featured some of these advances, including a test run of Alice, the vehicle students are assembling to drive city streets autonomously in a military funded competition in November. Today will be the alumni’s moment in the sun. Former students and faculty, who include two astronauts, a University of Michigan president, a race car designer, and an oil industry executive, will talk about the wide variety of fields they have applied their mechanical engineering education to. “Caltech is a remarkable place, one that I feel fortunate that I had the opportunity to have,” said Tom Tyson, who got his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1954 and returned for his Ph.D. in aeronautics 1967. elise.kleeman@sgvn.com (626) 578-6300, EXT. 4451last_img read more