“The brilliant thing about my job is that, it is not a circumscribed routine, there are different challenges every day. Believe me, it is a lot of fun. NASA is also a great organization that cares about its people and their personal development, need I say more?
– Ashitey Trebi-Ollenu
Over the years, Ghana has produced quite a number of Science geeks. One of such persons who has contributed immensely to the field is Ashitey Trebi-Ollennu.
EARLY LIFE AND EDUCATION
Ashitey Trebi-Ollennu, FIET, FRAeS, SMIEE, PMP, FGA, is a robotics engineer at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the chief engineer and technical group leader for the mobility and manipulation group at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
He was born in Accra, Ghana, to parents of GA descent. His father was an economist at the Ministry of Finance in Accra. Ashitey’s interest in technology and space exploration kicked off during his childhood days when he would watch aeroplanes fly by.
He had his basic and secondary school education at Garrison Primary school and Ghana Secondary Technical School respectively. Following this, he pursued a bachelor’s degree in engineering (BEng) Avionics at the Queen Mary University in London. He obtained a PhD in Control Systems Engineering at the Royal Military College of Science. He further holds a certification in project management from the California Institute of Technology.
Trebi-Ollennu joined the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 1999 and played a major role in the design of the Mars Rover robot. Some of the responsibilities he has assumed bothers on flight projects, flight projects review boards, mission formulation, technology tasks, technical writing and proposals. He has also served as a reviewer for NASA Science Mission Directorate technology proposals and NASA Office of Education proposals.
As part of the many responsibilities he held, he was also a Research Scholar at the Institute for Complex Engineered Systems at the Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and was instrumental in the design and implementation of a system of All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) for distributed tactical surveillance for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
He once announced during an interview with the BBC that he had started a project in his home country of Ghana to encourage the study of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). That notwithstanding, He was part of the team that worked on the Phoenix (spacecraft) that found water on Mars.
In 2011, Trebi-Ollennu founded the Ghana Robotics Academy Foundation (GRAF), a nonprofit volunteer organization whose aim is geared towards motivating and inspiring young Ghanaians in science, technology and engineering. His foundation won the Google RISE Award in 2013.
He is a Fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology, U. K., and a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society, U.K. He also serves as a Senior Member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.
He is also a Fellow of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences.
HONOURS AND AWARDS
- 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”
- NASA Exceptional Engineering Achievement Medal (2008) “For exceptional technical contributions to the Mars Exploration Rovers, providing comprehensive engineering support pre- and post-launch, including resolutions of rover anomalies”
- Sir Monty Finniston Achievement Medal (2007) “For outstanding technical contribution to any field of engineering from the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), Europe’s largest professional society for engineers;” “For outstanding technical contribution to the NASA’s Mars Exploration Rovers mission”
- 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;” “For exceptional service to the IEEE as a Guest Editor in organizing and publishing a special issue of IEEE Robotics & Automation Magazine on Mars Exploration Rovers, June 2006”
- JPL Mariner Award (2006) from MER “For outstanding leadership in the analysis and resolution of the IDD unstow anomaly on Opportunity Rover”
At his leisure time, Trebi-ollennu loves to do sports; and is interested in sports like Lawn tennis, Table tennis, Football, Chess, American football, Athletics, and Test cricket.