It’s no easy feat to climb the ladder in a foreign land but Ghanaian-born autonomous technology enthusiast defied all odds to become a renowned multidisciplinary engineer.
Born in Accra, Ghana, Dr Ashitey Trebi-Ollennu, was fascinated with space travel and aviation from a very young age.
In a report by dearblackchild.com, he spent the majority of his early years in his family’s Ghanaian house, which was conveniently located not far from a domestic airport. This might have sparked his first inclination in piloting aircraft and unmanned aerial systems. He is claimed to have had childhood fantasies of removing people from cockpits and controlling aeroplanes from a distance.
The Ghanaian genius’ dreams eventually came to life with the design and fabrication of a robotic arm that will deploy vital instruments and probes on the spacecraft hundreds of millions of miles away.
Some facts about the Ghanaian scientist
1. Trebi-Ollennu completed his secondary education at the Ghana Secondary Technical School. He attended Queen Mary University of London to earn his Bachelor of Engineering (BEng) in Avionics in 1991. His thesis was titled “Review of 4-D guidance techniques and the simulation of 4-D aircraft guidance.”
He pursued his PhD in Control Systems Engineering from 1993 and 1996 at Cranfield University in the UK, where he published his dissertation on “Robust Non-linear Control Designs Using Adaptive Fuzzy Systems.”
Additionally, Dr. Trebi-Ollenu has a 2007 certification in project management from Caltech.
2. Dr. Ashitey Trebi-Ollennu has worked at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, since 1999.
He is the Product Delivery Manager for the InSight Mars Mission Instrument Deployment System, Instrument Deployment System operations Team Chief, and a technical group leader in the Robotic Manipulation & Sampling group.
3. The space engineer led a team of like minds on a project which involved designing and building robots for NASA missions at the agency’s laboratory in California, United States.
4. In his 20-year career, Dr Ashitey Trebi-Ollennu has worked on flight projects, flight project review boards, mission formulation, technology tasks, writing technology proposals, and served as a reviewer for NASA Science Mission Directorate technology proposals and NASA Office of Education proposals.
5. He is the brain behind the Mars Exploration Rover in 2003 to weighing in with his expertise on the Phoenix aircraft that found water on the planet in 2008, and even putting in his shift at the Mars Science Laboratory in 2011.
6. The engineer has been the front liner of expeditions on Mars including the historic landing InSight – a spacecraft developed by NASA on the planet on Monday, November 26, 2018.
According to The New York Times, the spacecraft was anticipated to provide “insights” into the planet’s underground, look for tremors that could be indicative of “marsquakes,” and provide some information that might explain how the red, dusty planet came into being.
7. Ashitey Trebi-Ollennu is the founder of the Ghana Robotics Academy Foundation (GRAF) in 2011. The Foundation is a non-profit organization that has made it its mandate to pioneer science education in Ghana; by organizing practical robotics workshops and competitions for students at both the secondary and tertiary levels.
8. He has received multiple awards. Some of them are:
The JPL Mariner Award (2006) from MER “For outstanding leadership in the analysis and resolution of the IDD unstow anomaly on Opportunity Rover”,
Outstanding Engineer Award (2007), from IEEE Region 6 (12 states of the Western United States, “For exceptional technical leadership and ingenuity in diagnosing the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity robotic arm anomaly culminating in a successful resolution of the anomaly leading to the continuing successful exploration of the surface of Mars in the extended mission,” among:
Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS) Silver Award Medal (2020) “for his contribution to the successful development and delivery of the Instrument Deployment System on the InSight Mars Mission. It enabled the first robotic deployment by NASA of a seismometer on another planet”
9. Trebi-Ollennu was nephew to barrister and judge, Nii Amaa Ollenu who was elected the Speaker of Ghana’s Parliament during the Second Republic as well as served as the Chairman of the Presidential Commission and acting President of Ghana from 7 August 1970 to 31 August 1970.
10. Aside science and airspace, Trebi-Ollennu enjoys various sports like lawn tennis, table tennis, test cricket, and American football.