#Campbell21 | NASA team’s lead engineer goes out a winner

Christian Ruesch

Much like a college athlete who wins the big game and leaves a legacy in his or her senior year, Christian Ruesch’s moment in the sun came at this year’s NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge Team competition.

The senior mechanical engineering major from Chattanooga, Tennessee, will walk the stage on Saturday just weeks after learning his team took home Campbell University’s first awards in the international competition. Ruesch was the lead engineer for the group of students who earned NASA’s Project Review Award and the Ingenuity Award — two awards in a competition that handed out only nine awards total in the college/university division. 

Ruesch — a member of the School of Engineering’s second graduating class — was also a member of the 2019 team that competed in Mobile, Alabama, for the first time. The group has come a long way in just a short time.

“The legacy of myself and the other graduating seniors on the team will live on through the mentorship and training we imparted on the younger classes of engineers,” he said. As the lead engineer for the last two years on the team, I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished, but I’m even more excited to see what next year’s team does with the foundation we’ve laid so far.”

Ruesch said he gained a great deal of experience in Campbell’s hands-on engineering program. He said the school’s emphasis on “true understanding over simple regurgitation” is valuable in the world of engineering. 

“I look forward to proudly boasting that I was an early adopter of Campbell’s engineering program,” he said, “and that I helped in the foundation of a community that helps so many young engineers get started on the long, demanding road to excellence.”

Ruesch said he’s proud of the many traditions his class and the one before it started at the new school, from the “infamous whiteboard polls” in the Carrie Rich commons area to mentoring new students through Dr. Lee Rynearson’s “grueling” projects. But the tradition he’s most proud of goes back to the NASA rover team and the work his team put in to succeed. 

“We use engineering principles and technical skills to build off-road competition vehicles, and when the final push for an objective is made, that’s when the engineering community is at its best,” he said. “Heads down and eyes on the prize — we give everything we can to make it happen. 

“In engineering, failure is always an option, but only if you’re ready to turn failures into lessons and lessons into success.”