Ross Finman given scholarship for exploratory space research

Junior electrical and computer engineering student Ross Finman was awarded the Robert H. Goddard Memorial Scholarship, a scholarship issued by the National Space Club that is given to a student interested in space-related science and engineering.

When awarding the scholarship, the National Space Club looks for applicants whose academic plans involve future involvement in some type of aerospace engineering or technology, and who have past research or participation in aerospace related engineering, according to the club’s website. The scholarship is in memory of Robert H. Goddard, who NASA has dubbed “the father of modern rocket propulsion.”

“I was honored to have been given such a prestigious award. Being that it is a national competition, I was so thrilled that I was chosen,” said Finman.

Finman explained that he had been interested in space technology since he was 12 years old and received his first Lego Mindstorms kit, which he used to build robots until his fingers bled. He worked on various robotics projects after that, but he became even more interested when the Mars rovers landed.

“I read every story on the rovers for four years after they landed,” said Finman.

Finman is involved in a number of activities that go along with his interests in space technology. He has participated in the Google Lunar X-Prize, which is a $20 million competition where teams compete to send a robot to the moon and send images of the moon back to Earth, and is also working on the NASA Regolith Excavation challenge dealing with obtaining dirt from the moon.

“The Google Lunar X-Prize team has taught me more in two years than I could have imagined in my entire educational career,” Finman said.

He also received a SURG grant sponsored by Lockheed Martin to work on “tweels,” which are wheels that mimic normal tires but without the pressurization or materials that do not work properly in space.

Finman attributes many of his opportunities and successes in his academic career to Carnegie Mellon.

“Carnegie Mellon has been a major influence in my career and has offered me more opportunities to pursue robotics and engineering projects that I wouldn’t have been able to find elsewhere,” he said.

Finman also credits his professors and fellow students with helping him achieve what he has.

“Red Whittaker has been an excellent professor, and I know without his guidance I would not have been in a position to win this award. I am surrounded by a group of driven individuals who continue to help me expand my horizons,” Finman said.

ECE students and faculty also appreciate Finman’s work and successes at Carnegie Mellon just as much as Finman appreciates their help.

“Ross Finman is the kind of student that chooses Carnegie Mellon because our environment nurtures and inspires innovation,” explained Ed Schlesinger, head of the electrical and computer engineering department, in a Carnegie Mellon press release.

And it is not only the ECE department that promotes this environment of innovation.

“My professors consistently tie theoretical information back to practical applications and connect general ideas with current engineering issues. They want us to be aware of what is going on in engineering outside of Carnegie Mellon, and encourage us to think with a real-world mindset,” said Abby Morrell, a senior mechanical engineering major.

Professor William “Red” Whittaker, who heads Carnegie Mellon’s Lunar X-Prize team, also had the opportunity to work with Finman and also believes him to be deserving of the award.

“I could not think of a more deserving awardee. Ross is a jewel. He drives himself to lead and pulls his team along with him,” stated Whittaker in the press release.

Finman is very thankful for the opportunities he has experienced at Carnegie Mellon.

“I would like to thank the inspirational people at the Robotics Institute who have been so supportive of my efforts. I am surrounded by a group of driven individuals who continue to help me expand my horizons,” Finman commented.

The scholarship, which is $10,000 in value, will be presented to Finman on April 17 at the 52nd annual Goddard Memorial Dinner in Washington, D.C.