APL Colloquium

March 23, 2018

Colloquium Topic: The Engine of Possibility: Accelerating Development

Just as the universe’s expansion accelerates, the power of information technology continues to shrink and connect the globe in unexpected ways. New discoveries in physics, biology, at the macro-, and micro-levels create more questions than answers. The confounding question in the aerospace field in particular, then, is why does new capability infusion take twice as long as 30 years ago?

Technologies like additive manufacturing, structured light, wireless avionics and advanced analytical tools are re-shaping the entire product life enabling dramatic reductions (2-10X) in development cost and schedule. Yet, experiences like the Space Shuttle Challenger and Columbia tragedies create unintended barriers to change and innovation. Solving this riddle requires much deeper introspection – a serious “look in the mirror”.

Only a learning and open culture is capable of encouraging the insatiable curiosity and personal awareness necessary for infusing innovation with hard-won experience. Cultivating the ability to embrace uncertainty and risk, with targeted analysis and depth of intuition are key to success. Then we can break through our natural human behavioral barriers and realize the benefits of these advances.

Colloquium Speaker: Chris Singer

Christopher (Chris) Singer recently retired as NASA Deputy Chief engineer and is currently an independent consultant and executive coach. He is a proven, dynamic leader with over 34 years of experience and was the catalyst for Agency capability integration and innovation & collaboration culture.

Prior to this position, he served as Engineering Director at Marshall Space Flight Center, an organization of 2500 people responsible for the design, testing, and operation space systems developed by the center. He led Engineering through particularly difficult times including the Columbia tragedy, the Constellation cancellation and Shuttle retirement. He developed experiential workshops, “Retooling Engineering” and “Getting to First Flight”, creating the culture for rapid infusion of advanced technologies such as selective laser melting, structured light scanning and wireless avionics and sensor systems.

Mr. Singer began his NASA career in 1983 as a rocket engine specialist; he is an AIAA Associate Fellow and has numerous awards including the Distinquished Service Medal and Presidential Rank Award— the highest honors for career federal employees— and the coveted Astronaut Corps Silver Snoopy Award.

A native of Nashville, Mr. Singer earned a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering in 1983 from Christian Brothers University in Memphis, Tennessee.