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Accomplished MAE undergrad adds more ASME accolades

Jonathan Jennings poses with an award.

Jonathan Jennings was given a crystal ball award for participating in the ASME Technology Advisory Panel. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Jennings.

Jonathan Jennings ends every email with the words, “Chasing the dream,” a phrase that succinctly describes what the senior mechanical and aerospace engineering student has been doing for the past five years in the MU College of Engineering. Few students have as passionately gerrymandered their educational coursework and extracurricular endeavors into such satisfying experiences and results as Jennings, who is set to graduate in May.

To say that Jennings has reached for the stars during his years at MU is no idiom. The dream he is chasing has everything to do with space, from working in the aeronautics industry to eventually taking a seat in a manned spacecraft.

A returning student, Jennings owned and operated Sublime Creations, a lawn care, landscaping and light construction business while his wife, Valerie (Bene) Jennings, earned a degree in diagnostic medical ultrasound from MU, graduating with honors in 2008. Then Valerie went to work, and her husband became the student.

In January, Jennings attended the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS) student leadership retreat in Washington D.C.

SEDS is one of five student organizations founded or reinvigorated by Jennings during his time in Mizzou Engineering, the others being an MU chapter of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) competition rocket team, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) student design and rapid prototyping competition teams, the Mizzou rapid prototyping club (3DPC) and the Mizzou unmanned aerial vehicle club.

Students and organizers at the SEDS retreat, along with representatives of the National Space Society, spent the first couple of days of the conference proposing space exploration legislation and then went to Capitol Hill to speak with legislators about their proposals.

After participating in Students on Capitol Hill, the group also visited space industry offices and businesses, where Jennings could aptly be described as a kid in a candy shop.

“It was an amazing trip. I had a lot of fun seeing the stuff that I want to get into,” Jennings said. The group visited SpaceX headquarters to talk about space policy; Orbital ATK to view their mission control room, satellite production facilities and talk to the C.F.O; Aerojet Rocketdyne and NanoRacks, the only commercial company that can “fly experiments on the international space station.”

During his four-year involvement with the MU student chapter of ASME, Jennings served as social chair, webmaster and president. On the national level, he was elected District C communications chair, chair of AMSE’s Region 2 and currently is serving as the member at large on the Student Section Enterprise Team (SSET).

His active involvement and leadership resulted in Jennings earning the 2015 Charles T. Main Student Section Leadership Gold Medal, the organization’s highest student honor. He accepted the award at the AMSE 2015 International Mechanical Engineering Congress & Exposition held in Houston in November 2015.

Early in March, Jennings and Caleb Amy from the Georgia Institute of Technology, the student recipient of the 2015 Charles T. Main silver medal, were given crystal ball awards for participating in the ASME Technology Advisory Panel. They joined MAE department heads, professional mechanical engineers working in industry, and retirees in New York City to prioritize the organization’s focus moving forward after the ASME-1 reorganization.

“They’re trying to shift their views based on technologies that will greatly impact society and that have the most potential to help humanity,” Jennings said. “They invited us to come there to narrow it down to 10 [technologies] for ASME staff to perform SWOT analysis on.”

Jennings said he and Amy were equal partners in the process and played instrumental roles in developing evaluation procedures. The list eventually will be narrowed to five key technology foci by the mechanical engineering professional organization.

Participating on a national level to set priorities for AMSE was heady stuff for the graduating senior, but he took it in stride as just one more step along the path to realizing the dream he’s been chasing.

Jennings landed a job at Honeywell Aerospace in Phoenix working as a systems engineer on auxiliary power units and the HTF7000 high bypass turbofan, exactly where he wants to be as he launches his career.