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Charles Camarda

Retired NASA Astronaut, Author, Inventor & CEO of the Epic Education Foundation

Retired NASA Astronaut, Author, Inventor & CEO of the Epic Education Foundation

Travels From Travels From:
Norfolk, VA, USA
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Charles Camarda Biography

Dr. Charles Camarda retired from NASA in May 2019, after 46 years of continuous service as a research engineer and technical manager at Langley Research Center (LaRC), an Astronaut and Senior Executive (Director of Engineering) at Johnson Space Center (JSC), and as the Senior Advisor for Innovation and Engineering Development at NASA LaRC. He was selected as an Astronaut Candidate in 1996 and flew as a Mission Specialist on STS-114, NASA’s Return-to-Flight (RTF) mission immediately following the Columbia disaster. He invented the on-orbit, wing leading edge repair capability which he flew and tested on his mission.

Dr. Camarda is an inventor, author, professor, and internationally recognized invited speaker on subjects related to engineering, engineering design, innovation, safety, organizational behavior, and education. Dr. Camarda is the Founder/CEO of the Epic Education Foundation and he is the President of an aerospace engineering and education consultancy, Leading Edge Enterprises LLC.

Charles Camarda Speaking Topics

  • How to Prevent & Fix a Toxic Organizational Culture

  • High-Performing Teams – How to Create, Nurture, and Lead Teams in a Complex World

    NASA is a premier organization that can solve almost any technical challenge that it faces. Or at least that’s the general public consensus. However, NASA today is very different from the agency that, 50 years ago, successfully landed humans on the Moon and returned them safely home. More recently, NASA teams have had major problems leading to the Challenger and Columbia disasters. Work in complex companies is done in teams. Everything that happens, success and failure, is the result of how these teams function, how they conduct work, and how the individual members support one another. The extraordinarily successful culture of NASA of yesteryear today struggles to fix the root causes of problems related to underperforming, even dysfunctional, teams. As a result, new organizations, such as SpaceX, have rapidly taken over public interest and attention as the bearers of the future of America’s, and possibly the world’s space ambitions. The challenges confronting NASA are not primarily technological or related to its engineering capability. Rather, the difficulties exist in the culture and mindsets now pervading the organization.

    Dr. Camarda is a 46-year NASA veteran who served as a research engineer, technical leader, Astronaut, Director of Engineering, and Senior Advisor for Innovation and Engineering Development. He has led multiple large NASA/DoD/Industry/Academia R&D teams throughout the U.S. to solve some of the most difficult engineering challenges as well as small agile teams to mature rapid innovative/breakthrough solutions. He will highlight a disturbing trend of NASA toward reduced emphasis on use-oriented, applied research over the past 25-30 years which has eroded the technical capability to not only predict key failure mechanism and root cause behaviors of anomalies which can lead to critical failures, but once realized, the inability to rapidly solve such problems and prevent future failures. He will also highlight ideas for using a system-of-systems approach, rapid concept development, and a “Team-of-Teams” approach to build a resilient, adaptive network of key subject-matter-experts to rapidly assess team performance and to mitigate potential failures before they become critical.

  • NASA’s Return-to-Flight Following Columbia – The Role of Research and Innovative Engineering Design)

    Contributions provided by the three NASA Researchers Centers were pivotal in understanding the proximate technical cause of the Columbia accident, mitigating the cause of the problem, and developing the necessary technologies to ensure a continued safe and expeditious return to flight. We enhanced our knowledge and understanding by reaching out to the research communities to utilize the latest advances in analysis, testing, inspection, monitoring and fabrication. We were able to make significant advances in understanding the complex aerodynamic and aerothermodynamic environments; debris transport; impact dynamics and failure of thermal protection system (TPS) (tile and reinforced carbon-carbon (RCC)); ablation of damaged RCC; etc. In addition, we developed innovative technologies for non-destructive evaluation (NDE), damage monitoring, and TPS repair. Throughout this process we gained a tremendous amount of insight into how to develop innovative concepts and utilize innovative solution strategies in a timely and cost-effective manner which satisfied the stringent demands of a very public, high-profile program!

    Dr. Charles Camarda will present his personal account of this process as a research engineer involved with the Columbia Accident Investigation, an innovator of several of the technical concepts utilized for repair, and as an Astronaut who demonstrated and flew several of these technologies in space on STS-114, the return-to-flight mission of the Space Shuttle.

  • Houston….YOU Have a Problem | Psychological Safety, Leadership & Critical Thinking

    Does NASA still have what it takes to send humans back to the Moon and eventually Mars and risk another space race, this time with China? Astronaut and 46-Year NASA veteran researcher, Dr. Camarda, describes how the gradual cultural decay and slide from technical excellence could result in a reverse “Apollo Effect” which could threaten our technical dominance and challenge our position as world leader. The same systemic problems which caused the Challenger and Columbia accidents persist today and can be witnessed in other large corporations around the world. Houston…You Have a Problem is an insider’s story of an Agency which suffered the loss of a crew and how it wrestled with its own dysfunctional culture as told by Dr. Charles Camarda, an experienced research engineer and thermal structures expert, who flew as a Mission Specialist on STS-114, NASA’s Return-to-Flight mission following the Columbia accident! The story heralds the triumph of the indomitable human spirit and creative genius of some of NASA’s best and brightest minds to overcome a psychologically unsafe environment, bureaucratic inertia, cultural decay and technical subordination of a once great organization and develop the technology and procedures to ensure the space program’s successful return to flight. It lays out a prescriptive plan which NASA and other struggling corporations can follow to identify “weak signals” of technical and behavioral dysfunction and put in place measures to heal and transform organizations so they can regain the core ideologies which made them great.

  • Transforming Education – Killing Three Birds

    "We are approaching a point in time where the rapid acceleration of technology related to education, course development and learning has produced large amounts of content and knowledge concepts within fingertip reach of learners of all ages providing they have access to the Internet and a computer or mobile device. Learning to learn and acquiring the skills necessary to search and, more importantly, curate the numerous sources to select just the right information and/or to interact with just the right subject-matter-expert (SME) at just the right time is critical. What if we could ignite, excite, and align learners’ passion for solving problems with a customized roadmap which guides and facilitates the process for acquiring the knowledge and mastering the necessary skills in a collaborative environment using a problem-based learning methodology?

    Dr. Charles Camarda is a NASA Astronaut and Senior Executive who has formulated and proposed the Innovative Conceptual Engineering Design (ICED) methodology as a means for both increasing innovation within NASA and encouraging STEM education in the United States. This methodology involves bringing real-world, open-ended, “epic” engineering challenges to a diverse mix of university, high school, and even middle school students. Under the guidance of relevant subject matter experts from academia, industry, and the government, these students initially work together in person in a highly collaborative, concurrent engineering environment where creative ideas are rapidly conceptualized, prototyped, tested, and iterated upon. Following an initial workshop, a virtual platform is used to maintain links between the technical experts and the student teams, as they continue to mature their problem solutions. The ICED program was developed by Dr. Camarda over several years while participating in a wide range of NASA and Air Force research and development programs. Over the past four years, this program has been successfully field-tested over a wide variety of participant experience levels ranging from high school to young practicing engineers. One such collaborative effort involving students from MIT and Penn State resulted in a potentially feasible solution to a contingency land landing system for NASA’s next-generation space vehicle, the Orion capsule!

  • Space Shuttle Design – Lessons Learned

    The Space Shuttle was an amazing and unique spacecraft that transported crewmembers, supplies, equipment, experiments, and large payloads both to and from low Earth orbit (LEO). It served multiple functions to satisfy diverse military, civilian, industry, and scientific requirements including: facilitating satellite launch, servicing, and return to Earth; serving as a science platform to conduct experiments in a micro-gravity space environment; providing large payload capability to LEO and moderate capability to geostationary Earth orbit (GEO); and serving as a low-cost space transportation system to help build the International Space Station (ISS). Space Shuttle was hoped to usher in a new era of safe, low-cost access to space, which would enable effective commercial and private utilization of space for everyone. This presentation summarizes the development of the Space Shuttle, beginning with the exploration of hypersonic flight and reusable space vehicles and ending with the accomplishments of the engineers, scientists, astronauts, and program managers, whose achievements led to the program’s development and operation. It concludes with a review of some of the successes, failures, and lessons learned throughout the life of this incredible program.

Charles Camarda Videos

  • Charles Camarda on becoming an astronaut
    NASA Astronaut Charles Camarda flew to space on STS-114, NASA’s first mission after the explosion of Space Shuttle Columbia and loss of its crew.
  • Professor George Siemens interviews Dr Charles Camarda
    Professor George Siemens interviewed Dr Charles Camarda during his stay at C3L. They talked about NASA, psychological safety in teams, the Epic...
  • Dr. Charles Camarda SEAS 2013 R&D Showcase

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  • What topics does Charles Camarda speak about?

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    Charles Camarda generally travels from Norfolk, VA, USA, but can be booked for private corporate events, personal appearances, keynote speeches, or other performances. For more details, please contact an AAE Booking agent.
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Charles Camarda is a keynote speaker and industry expert who speaks on a wide range of topics such as How to Prevent & Fix a Toxic Organizational Culture, High-Performing Teams – How to Create, Nurture, and Lead Teams in a Complex World, NASA’s Return-to-Flight Following Columbia – The Role of Research and Innovative Engineering Design), Houston….YOU Have a Problem | Psychological Safety, Leadership & Critical Thinking, Transforming Education – Killing Three Birds and Space Shuttle Design – Lessons Learned. The estimated speaking fee range to book Charles Camarda for your event is $10,000 - $20,000. Charles Camarda generally travels from Norfolk, VA, USA and can be booked for (private) corporate events, personal appearances, keynote speeches, or other performances. Similar motivational celebrity speakers are John Herrington, Aprille Ericsson, Leland Melvin, Ron Garan and Daniel Tani. Contact All American Speakers for ratings, reviews, videos and information on scheduling Charles Camarda for an upcoming live or virtual event.

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