Three years ago, Anthony Razo ‘21 bridged an essential chasm for Redlands students interested in engineering when he founded the University of Redlands Rocket Propulsion Club (RPC) as a chapter of the international non-profit organization Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS).
The purpose of RPC is to provide students “an opportunity to learn about spaceflight history, mechanics, and the engineering process of design,” as stated on their Presence webpage.
As president of the club, Razo has enabled Redlands students to be exposed to engineering in ways they otherwise would not have.
The Redlands Bulldog had the opportunity to speak with Razo and discuss the influences RPC has had on campus.
“I get to share what I know and what I learn with them,” Razo said. At meetings, he typically provides powerpoint presentations about the information that will be discussed as well as lead projects the group may be working on. As of right now, RPC is focused on a high power rocketry program.
Additionally, the club recently attended the conference Space Vision in Tempe, Arizona hosted by a chapter of SEDS at Arizona State University.
“RPC exposes people to different routes. One of the coolest things is we’re jumping in this environment full force,” Razo said.
As an organization focused on engineering, RPC intends to fill a gap for science students who are interested in the field but have no experience with it because the U of R currently does not offer an engineering degree.
The Engineering Combined Degree, also known as the “3-2” program, remains the only pathway for students to obtain an engineering degree while studying at Redlands. Upon completion of pre-engineering courses at the university within three years, students can transfer and spend two years at the School of Engineering at either Columbia University or University of Washington in St. Louis and thereafter earn a BS in engineering.
However, as Razo points out, students interested in undergoing the 3-2 program still receive no contact with engineering before transferring to another university to study the subject matter.
“When I first got here, you just get your physics degree and then they just send you off to Wash U or Colombia,” Razo said.
With RPC, Razo attempts to solve this problem by granting students interested in engineering exposure to the field, especially for undergraduates in which the 3-2 program is infeasible with their schedule.
“For a lot of people the 3-2 program is just not for them,” Razo said. “A lot of it for me came up with me finding my own path. I want to be able to help people that just because you came to Redlands for engineering that will not be the only way you can get an engineering degree.”
As a student interested in space exploration, Razo initially felt insecure about not going through the 3-2 program and instead acquiring a degree in engineering during his postgraduate career. However, the arrival of NASA astronaut Leland Melvin onto campus last month eased many of these anxieties.
Before Melvin’s speech in the Chapel on Nov. 13, Razo got the chance to personally meet the ex-NFL-player-turned-astronaut.
“He’s a hood hero,” Razo confessed. “This was the guy I’ve always looked up to, since about five years old.”
Melvin obtained a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from the University of Richmond and a master’s degree in Materials Science Engineering from the University of Virginia. As an astronaut, Melvin took the uncommon route of receiving a bachelor’s degree in science rather than in engineering.
As an aspiring astronaut himself, this assuaged Razo. “For me, it was confirmation that I know I can do the things I want to do. Reassurance for me that ‘yeah, I can do this.’”
The similarities between Melvin and Razo continue when considering their shared backgrounds in athletics.
Razo currently is a member of the track and field team for Redlands and signified that Melvin’s previous involvement with sports deepened the connection and appreciation he had for him. “Here’s a kid just like me who tore his hamstring while playing sports and continued on with studying science,” Razo explained, as this is an injury Razo himself is familiar with.
Overall, Leland Melvin rooted confidence into the Rocket Propulsion Club president and affirmed the gains Razo has been making.
“I’m really glad that SEDS and the RPC give people a chance at learning something,” Razo notes. “I’ve actually helped people get exposed to this stuff. People actually get to know what engineering is and what engineering is like.”
RPC typically meets Saturdays at 4pm on the second floor of Appleton Hall.
Photograph Contributed by Nadia Lathan.