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Takahashi flies high with Sustained Service Award

Group photo of ASU Professor of Practice Timothy Takahashi and members of the student groups AIAA@ASU and Air Devils standing next to a large plane.

Aerospace engineering Professor of Practice Timothy Takahashi’s involvement with the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics includes his role as faculty adviser of the AIAA@ASU student group and the Air Devils student group that competes in the annual AIAA Design, Build, Fly Competition. In 2018, Takahashi led AIAA@ASU and the Air Devils on a field trip to the Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson. Photo courtesy Timothy Takahashi

February 21, 2022

Timothy Takahashi has had a lifelong fascination with cars and airplanes, and the gamut of different styles of each.

He grew up intrigued by the near silence of classic Cadillacs, the rumble of muscle cars and the fascinating sounds of air-cooled engines found in Volkswagens and Corvairs. The horizon-wide variety of aircraft propelled by pistons, turbofans and turbojets also created an immediate interest for him.

“My late father indulged my fascination, and as a little boy we built lots of plastic model airplanes together, all of which were hung from the ceiling of my childhood bedroom,” Takahashi says.

That early love turned into a career in which he has been able to cultivate and share his enthusiasm for aerospace. And his career has soared.

Takahashi, an aerospace engineering professor of practice in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University, was recently one of nine people recognized by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics with the 2022 Sustained Service Award for his efforts with the organization.

His journey to service began in early adulthood. Takahashi took his love of vehicles and pursued a mechanical engineering undergraduate degree at the University of Rochester. While there, he was active in the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the Society of Automotive Engineers and was captain of the mini Baja team.

“But I got into aerospace, proper, after graduate school — as a byproduct of my first full-time job, which was as a contractor at NASA,” Takahashi says. “And I’ve been a member of the AIAA since 1994.”

Takahashi attended his first AIAA conference that year as a newly minted doctoral graduate.

“As a PhD type, writing papers is part of my ‘job description,’” Takahashi says. “Beginning with my time at NASA, I have regularly written papers (that) were presented and published through the AIAA. More than 90% of my published work has been through the AIAA.”

Being a part of a professional society is more than just attending events or even giving a paper at a conference. For Takahashi, it’s also about the connections and friendships one makes.

Timothy Takahashi

“In 1999, when I was working at Lockheed (Martin) in metro Atlanta, my vice president was a catalyst in revitalizing the local professional section,” Takahashi says. “Not only did he support my attendance at national conferences, but he underwrote engineers like me getting involved with the society at the national leadership level. Ever since then, I have maintained strong ties to both the local and national sections making many friends along the way.”

One of Takahashi's most memorable conference experiences was a few years ago when he put together a memorial session for friend and mentor Professor Bill Mason, who had retired from Virginia Tech.

“Although I was never his student, he was a professional mentor of mine,” Takahashi says. “It was very moving to be the catalyst and to hear and share stories from his former colleagues, collaborators and his many former students, as well as people who only knew of Bill secondhand. It was all so touching to see how tightly knit the aerospace community can be.”

Takahashi has served as the faculty adviser for both AIAA@ASU and the Air Devils student organization since arriving at the university in 2012. Air Devils is a radio-controlled aircraft team that competes in the annual Design, Build, Fly Competition hosted by the AIAA.

“We have fielded so many airplanes that I can be so proud of,” Takahashi says. “Many Air Devils students have gone on to have careers in aerospace where our professional paths continue to cross.  Whether I’m at an AIAA conference, visiting major defense contractors or dropping by the Air Force base in Dayton, Ohio, I can be sure that I’ll run into former Air Devils.”

Willem Anemaat, a 2021 recipient of the Sustained Service Award and president of the Design, Analysis and Research Corporation, nominated Takahashi for the 2022 award after working with him on AIAA activities for many years.

“He is one of the most driven people I know,” Anemaat says. “He truly cares about the profession and promoting AIAA and its activities to the younger generation, through his students. His enthusiasm for anything aviation is inspiring. The organizational skills he applied during the technical sessions, his forum organization and other activities at AIAA are impressive. I do not know of any other candidate who is so deserving of this award.”

Takahashi says that he is honored to be recognized for his sustained service to the international professional society.

“While the AIAA has been a big part of my professional life for nearly 30 years, it is a two-way street. You get out of it proportionally to what you put into it,” Takahashi says.

“For me, the thing about AIAA is the personal kinship that it provided. Remember that aviation is global, and the aerospace industry is often tumultuous to work in,” he says. “So, the AIAA has been the nexus that has kept many friendships alive across space and time. I plan to continue to lead my corners of the AIAA to make sure it is there for others as it was for me.”

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