Gary Curtis — 1959
One of the most recognizable landmarks in Seattle is the Space Needle. Numerous movies and television shows such as Sleepless in Seattle and Frasier show the famous Pacific Northwest landmark. Little did Gary Curtis, a 1959 graduate, know that after graduating from Walla Walla University’s School of Engineering that this familiar landmark would be one he would have on his list of projects.
“I never imagined I’d be doing that,” says Curtis, with a laugh. "What is cool about my job is that I have no idea what tomorrow will bring.” Curtis specifically worked on the Space Needle foundation design and top house design. He and the other four members of the team worked on designing and detailing the entire structure: legs, core and braces.
Curtis has designed countless domes, schools, churches, apartments and office buildings. Another notable project: He and a partner designed and built an aluminum structure that holds up the famous “Roller Coaster Bridge” in Long Beach, Calif.
“Basically, I imagine structures and figure out how to make them stay there in adverse conditions,” says Curtis. He has also had the opportunity to be a forensic engineering consultant when structures have collapsed. Learning from other’s mistakes has taught him to be vigilant.
Curtis is a founder and works as a principal of Gossamer Space Frames, a company that designs three-dimensional structure frames. Space frames are very lightweight, yet the structure can carry substantial weight. Since he works from home, Curtis commutes via email and video conference with his Gossamer Space Frames partners in California.
Curtis and his team have ongoing solar projects in Nevada, Spain, Florida, Arizona, and California. Some of these projects required them to build solar troughs, which are thermal energy collectors. Before Gossamer Space Frames started working on the project, making the troughs wasn’t economically competitive.
“I really love problems. I get excited about problems and try to fix them. With today’s engineering tools, structures can be three-dimensional puzzles and you can push and pull them to see how they behave,” says Curtis. To be an engineer, “you have to work really hard and produce results, not just be smart,” Curtis says. “Understand engineering fundamentals and be able to explain them in everyday terms.”
“I have had amazing opportunities in my life and was able to take advantage of every one of them,” says Curtis.
Curtis has been brought on board as an advisor for the 2017 renovation of the Space Needle. Read about the changes and his perspective here.
Jennifer Sousa — 2019
"Hello, my name is Jennifer Sousa and I recently graduated from WWU with a Mechanical Engineering BS degree. I currently work for Nikon Precision Inc. (NPI) as a Field Service Engineer, providing onsite customer service and support at NPI’s customer facilities by executing equipment installations, upgrades, repairs, and preventative maintenance of complex photolithography tools. (Photolithography tools are responsible for one of the processes of semiconductor manufacturing). On a daily basis I interpret schematics, mechanical diagrams, block diagrams, part lists and other technical materials and use tools such as oscilloscopes, digital voltmeters and other electronic diagnostic equipment to troubleshoot photolithography tools."
Gurkarn Gill — 2018
"During the last 18 months of my work at Microsoft, I started off drafting for multiple projects, one them being the Surface Hub 2. Then I made my way into modeling, where I assisted many engineers with simple to complex representative models. I currently set up studies for measuring anatomical features and provide data through a plethora of CAD tools. My current title is Support Mechanical Engineer, and this wouldn't have been possible without Walla Walla University and its awesome professors."
Christian Welch — 2018
"I attended Walla Walla because I always knew I wanted to study Engineering. Growing up experimenting with radios and electronics, my fascination with radio communications, propagation and antenna design naturally prepared me for studying electrical engineering. However, it didn’t take me long to recognize that a career as an electrical engineer wasn’t what I was looking for. I wanted to do something 'outside the box.'
With help from my professors, my first steps 'outside the box' found me pursuing WWU’s Global Humanitarian Engineering Emphasis. I served overseas as a student missionary; I participated and led Engineers Without Borders projects in India; and I learned to understand and appreciate the diversity of the world and my own local community. Through it all, I learned that there is far more to Engineering than designing advanced electrical test instruments or pioneering the next generation of aircraft autopilot. Engineering is a problem-solving mindset that matters and applies far beyond the cubicle.
Because of support from WWU engineering professors and classmates, I am now a Deck Watch Officer in the U.S. Coast Guard. Though I rarely solve integrals or design circuits, I frequently encounter marine navigation problems and even technical ship system drawings that leverage my engineering background. Whether it’s calculating closest point of approach, set and drift, and dead reckoning, or understanding why pressure decreases with pipe length, or systematically working to identify the best course of action in a vessel crossing situation, my professors at WWU instilled a set of skills and work ethic that transcend engineering. I am thankful for their mentorship and encouragement to seek out opportunities for both personal and professional growth."
Todd Schoepflin - 1997
Todd Schoepflin is a principal engineer at Amazon and served as one of the system architects for Amazon One (Amazon's technology to use your palm for contactless identity service). Todd helped guide the team through challenging product design tradeoffs, including thermal and form factor. Security of credit card and biometric data was a fundamental pillar for the product because customer trust is perhaps Amazon's most precious asset. Todd researched and proposed a hardware architecture that could support the necessary security certifications for the product. During the prototyping phase, Todd worked with researchers to identify the right camera pipeline and compression that could deliver the best quality images for use by the computer vision algorithms. The entire team spent a great deal of effort prototyping, gathering data, and fine-tuning the user experience to minimize friction and device errors. In the end, Todd was only one of scores of engineers across many engineering disciplines (mechanical, electrical, optical, reliability, compliance, software, computer vision) that worked together to deliver a unique end-to-end experience.