CORVALLIS, Ore. – Ellen Ochoa, the first Latina to journey to space and the former director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, will deliver the keynote lecture next month at Engineering Virtual Expo 2021, an event organized by the Oregon State University College of Engineering that showcases undergraduate student design projects.

Ochoa, who joined NASA in 1988 as an engineer at Ames Research Center and was selected as an astronaut in 1990, will speak at 12:10 p.m. on Friday, June 4, prior to the presentation of the expo’s People’s Choice and Industry Choice awards.

Ochoa became the first Latina in space while serving in 1993 on a nine-day mission aboard the space shuttle Discovery. She has flown in space four times and has logged almost 1,000 hours in orbit.

Those interested in attending Engineering Virtual Expo 2021 and watching Ochoa’s presentation can register online. The event, free and open to the public, kicks off at 8:30 a.m. with student project displays and virtual College of Engineering tours geared toward high school students. Those who attend the expo can visit with students about projects in a range of areas including artificial intelligence, clean water, health, natural disaster preparedness, robotics, sustainable energy and virtual reality.

Among the more than 150 student projects are:

  • An animal stress detector that measures stress hormone concentrations in research animals via a wearable patch. Its use can result in more ethical and better controlled animal research studies. 
  • An inertial electrostatic confinement fusion reactor, or IEC, which is an alternative neutron source that offers several advantages over radioactive decay. Its field strength can be toggled (dependent on input voltage), it ceases to produce neutrons when turned off, and it can produce high-energy neutrons from deuterium, a relatively safe and inexpensive hydrogen isotope.
  • Global Formula Racing, a partnership of Oregon State University and the Ravensburg University of Cooperative Education in Germany that designs and manufactures high-performance electric race cars each year to compete in North America and Europe. This year, 52 Oregon State engineering seniors worked on the design and construction of their car.

College of Engineering

About the OSU College of Engineering: The college is a global leader in artificial intelligence, robotics, advanced manufacturing, clean water and energy, materials science, computing, resilient infrastructure and health-related engineering. Among the nation’s largest and most productive engineering programs, the college awards more bachelor’s degrees in computer science than any other institution in the United States. The college ranks second nationally among land grant universities, and fifth among the nation’s 94 public R1 universities, for percentage of tenured or tenure-track engineering faculty who are women.


Story By: 

Steve Lundeberg, 541-737-4039
[email protected]


Brad Canfield, 541-737-7151
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