Tag Archives: JPL

Alum Jessie Kawata merges design thinking and rocket science as NASA JPL’s visual strategist

Jessie Kawata is a visual strategist at NASA + JPL

Jessie Kawata applies design thinking to scientific quandries at NASA + JPL












Jessie Kawata (BFA, Product ’11) is a Visual Strategist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where she gets to stare into space for a living. This term she is teaching a Saturday High class at Art Center as well as mentoring students in Product Design’s Design for Sustainability 2 Studio class, which includes a NASA JPL theme using JPL’s Earth Mission and Climate Sciences data. Below she describes how she helps pave the way for design to exist in space exploration.

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Seeing stars with Dan Goods: NASA’s resident wizard of wonderment and REALSPACE exhibitioning artist

Dan Goods and David Delgado Refraction, 2014 on view in REALSPACE. Courtesy of the artists.

Dan Goods and David Delgado, Refraction, 2014; on view in the Williamson Gallery’s REALSPACE show. Courtesy of the artists.

What are you doing with your special moment in time today? This pointed challenge culminates an inspiring TEDx Talk by Graphic Design alumnus Dan Goods, who works as a visual strategist (aka resident artist) at NASA’S Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena. Here’s how Goods answers his own question: “I’m creating experiences for people that give them a moment of awe and wonder about the universe we live in.”

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Art Center’s David Doody moonlights running mission control for NASA’S Cassini Saturn exploration


Cassini's ringed target: Saturn.

Cassini’s ringed target: Saturn.

“Right across the Arroyo, we’re making plans for a real close encounter,” says Dave Doody, whose Art Center At Night seminar, “Basics of Interplanetary Flight,” is currently recruiting participants for a class that’s literally out of this world. “My team has been piloting the gangly robot Cassini in wide orbits around Saturn since 2010. But in coming years we’re going to drop in for some up-close-and-personal visits. We’ll plunge the spacecraft between the rings and the planet 22 times before letting go of the spent machine so it can burn up in the gas giant’s atmosphere like a meteor.”

This 2016-2017 segment of Cassini’s 20 year mission has been temporarily dubbed the “Proximal Orbits” by mission planners at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where Doody works as a senior engineer, currently leading the Saturn-bound spacecraft’s flight operations controllers. But after acknowledging that some creative person somewhere could almost certainly conjure a more mission-worthy name, NASA launched the Cassini Name Game, hoping for some better ideas.

“One thing about these orbits will be their huge roller coaster speed,” says Doody. “The camera-laden craft will reach more than 120,000 kilometers an hour as it screams past the innermost ring particles just above the hazy atmosphere. Next, it’ll slow down for three and a quarter days, coasting ‘up’ to the top of its 1.2 million kilometer-high peak, before starting to drop back in again for its next pass. Wild.”

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From Data to Discovery Videos Now Online

Stamen's 3D browsable map of New York (in mesh form), which pulls data from Nokia's Here.

Stamen’s 3D browsable map of New York (in mesh form), which pulls data from Nokia’s Here.

Weren’t able to make it to last month’s From Data to Discovery, the one-day symposium in Caltech’s Beckman Auditorium on the emerging science of big data visualization?

Well, it’s time to turn that smile upside down, because videos of every presentation that took place that day are now available for viewing on a playlist on Caltech’s YouTube channel.

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Art Center, Caltech and NASA JPL Team Up to Explore Data Visualization

A still from artist Jer Thorp's "Just Landed" (2009), a work that visualizes tweets from air travellers.

A still from artist Jer Thorp’s “Just Landed” (2009), a work that visualizes tweets from air travellers.

On Thursday, May 23, Art Center, Caltech and NASA JPL hosted From Data to Discovery, a one-day symposium on the emerging science of big data visualization that attracted leaders of the field from across the nation.

Speakers included Fernanda Viégas and Martin Wattenberg, co-leaders of Google’s “Big Picture” visualization research group in Cambridge, Mass., Jer Thorp, an artist and cofounder of the New York-based multidisciplinary research group The Office for Creative Research, and Golan Levin, an artist and director of The Frank Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry at Carnegie Mellon University.

Caltech’s Beckman Auditorium was packed with approximately 500 members of the art, design and scientific communities eager to engage in a discussion on how data visualization has transformed from a mere means of representation into a tool for discovery.

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Art Center, Caltech and NASA JPL to Host Industry Leaders for One-Day Data Visualization Symposium

Detail of student Jerod Rivera's "Reductive Resonance."

The data is out there. The challenge? Making sense of it all.

This Thursday, Art Center, Caltech and NASA JPL are joining forces to host leaders in the fields of data science and visualization from across the nation for From Data to Discovery, a one-day symposium on the emerging science of big data visualization.

The event will be held at Caltech’s Beckman Auditorium from 9 a.m to 5 p.m. and is open to members of the Art Center, Caltech and NASA JPL communities. The event is free but seating is limited, so reservations are required.

Participating guests include:

  • Fernanda Viégas & Martin Wattenberg, co-leaders of Google’s “Big Picture” visualization research group in Cambridge, Mass., who describe their work as exploring “the joy of revelation;”
  • Jer Thorp, co-founder of The Office for Creative Research, a New York-based multidisciplinary research group, and an artist whose practice uncovers the “many-folded boundaries between science and art;” Continue reading

Art Center for Kids students imagine fashion on Mars

Instructor Yelen Aye (right) gives his Saturday High students some fashion sketching tips.

In less than two weeks, Art Center and students in grades 4–8 will be taking fashion to a different level. Or in this case, a different planet.

Every Spring term, all Art Center for Kids classes—from Animal Sculpture to T-Shirt Design—focus on a common theme: imagining life on Mars.

It’s all part of the Imagine Mars Project, an interdisciplinary program sponsored by NASA and the National Endowment for the Arts that takes students on a virtual mission to Mars and brings them back with a new outlook on community, science and the arts.

For these classes, Art Center for Kids students have an opportunity to meet with scientists and engineers from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to bring this theme to life.

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Explore “The History of Space Photography” and the Music of John Cage in Art Center’s Williamson Gallery

The Aurora Austalis, as photographed from the International Space Station. Photo courtesy of NASA.

Now open in the Williamson Gallery, the exhibition The History of Space Photography explores the beauty, mystery, science and meaning of images depicting our planet and worlds beyond.

Guest curated by Jay Belloli—the director of gallery programs at the Armory Center for the Arts from 1990 to 2010—the exhibition presents an extraordinary variety of astronomical photographs created since the development of photography, and will feature a number of the most important scientific photographs ever created.

From the earliest black and white documentation of the Moon, solar eclipses, and stars through the most recent color images of the early history of the Universe, The History of Space Photography is the most comprehensive exhibition of its kind ever organized.

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Tonight: Art Center Explores Brave New WORLDS

Astronomer Mike Brown's "How I Killed Pluto" (left); Detail of Semiconductor's "Black Rain" (right)

For the past decade, Art Center’s Williamson Gallery has produced a series of exhibitions superimposing art and science, domains traditionally thought of as existing on opposite ends of a spectrum. The latest project in this continuing series is WORLDS, a medley of objects, images, sounds and videos that explore celestial phenomena.

The exhibition kicks off tonight with a presentation by Caltech’s Mike Brown (8:00 p.m., Ahmanson Auditorium). A professor of planetary astronomy and the author of How I Killed Pluto And Why It Had It Coming, Brown will speak on “Worlds of Fire, Worlds of Water” as part of Pasadena’s Art and Science (AxS) Festival 2011: Fire and Water.

Following Brown’s presentation, stay for the WORLDS opening reception (9:00 p.m., Williamson Gallery), where you can enjoy a glass of wine, groove to the sounds of Opera Posse, and see incredible work on display by such artists as Jonathan Cecil, Rebeca Méndez and Semiconductor, as well as objects on loan from The Huntington Library’s Rare Book Collection, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and The UCLA Meteroite Collection.

This event is free; RSVP to events@artcenter.edu.

Art Center at Night Students Explore Brave New Worlds

Plotting a new trajectory is never a simple task. Just ask Dave Doody, a senior engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

A recent image of the Sun, captured by NASA's Solar and Heliospheric Observatory. (Photo courtesy of NASA.)

Doody is the lead flight engineer of NASA’s Cassini Solstice Mission, a mission in which the Cassini spacecraft is gathering and sending back information on the planet Saturn, its rings, moons and magnetosphere. Once a year, he also teaches Basics of Interplanetary Flight at Art Center at Night (ACN), a course in which curious students from all walks of life explore what it takes to navigate spacecraft across the solar system.

We recently trekked across the arroyo to JPL to ask Doody about his class.

Dotted Line: What do you explore in Basics of Interplanetary Flight?
We look at results from NASA’s probes, whether it’s from Voyager, the Mars Exploration Rovers, Cassini or the others. In each session we touch on a few other topics as well. We ask a lot of questions like: What is the spacecraft all about? How does it work? What are all its pieces and what do they do? How do you design it? How does it travel?

We also explore the environment that it has to operate in, whether it’s the vacuum in space or plasma from the sun. Can the spacecraft go straight to its destination in the solar system or does it have to follow certain pathways?

And we cover the up-and-coming spacecraft and anything that’s happening right now, like a launch or a landing. We also touch on some historical information.



Dotted Line: What kind of students do you get in the class?
Doody: Of course we get some students from Art Center, both undergraduates and graduates.

We also get filmmakers and transportation designers. But the class is not just limited to artists and designers. It’s wide open to the public, so we get everyone from surgeons to secretaries. Anybody can take the class.

We don’t depend on any previous experience or knowledge. We just need people who are interested in the fact that today we’re looking at new worlds. And we’re looking at them with robots that have new senses on them. These robots can see not only in visual light but also in infrared and ultraviolet. And they also have expanded sensory regions, so they can analyze magnetic fields and high-energy particles.

Dotted Line: In class you discuss the different types of sensors found on spacecraft?
Doody: Yes, but we’re not just discussing. This course takes place after dinner after all! We get into all sorts of activities where the students are experimenting and seeing how different sensors work. I try to keep it interesting and informative and get everybody working together and talking to one another.

Dotted Line: Give me an example of the type of activity you do in class.
Doody: Well, once you leave the Earth, you’re outside the magnetic bubble that protects us from the Sun, which is constantly shedding protons and electrons, which we call the solar wind. In fact, if the magnetic field on Earth were to vanish, the Sun’s solar wind would blow off the atmosphere, dry off the oceans and there’d be little hope for life.

It’s not the easiest concept to grasp, so I bring some plasma, which are highly charged particles, into the classroom. And the students take a very strong magnet and they can actually see how magnetic fields interact with plasma. It’s real simple and helps illustrate this environmental concept. And that’s what I try to do with the course in general. I try to take something abstract, put it right in your face and let you play with it.

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