Marsha and Wallace Fowler Endowed Undergraduate Scholarship
With his bright blue eyes sparkling, Dr. Wallace Fowler shows off one of his favorite toys: a gyroscope he uses to exercise his hands. It sits on the same shelf as a triangular puzzle of golf tees and a game that requires the user to pop a small metal ball into a groove inside a clear plastic box. And these are just a handful of the knickknacks on his bookshelves, equally packed with tomes on engineering mechanics and space mission planning, Dr. Fowler’s primary area of research. In an office with nearly many toys on the shelves – from Marvin the Martian to a space cadet Smurf – as teaching awards on the walls, it’s not hard to see why Dr. Fowler ranks among one of alumni’s favorite professors in the aerospace department.
“Teaching is probably more important to me than research in a lot of ways,” Dr. Fowler said. “Some people think teaching is the cross they bear to get to do the research they want, but I’m on the opposite side of that.”
Fowler’s success as an educator doesn’t go unnoticed. Already a University Distinguished Teaching Professor, Fowler was recently honored with a 2010 Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award, reserved for faculty who demonstrate extraordinary classroom performance and innovation at the undergraduate level. One of Dr. Fowler’s most popular classes is definitely innovative: his senior design course on spacecraft and mission planning requires students to plan challenging space missions in teams. Projects from this semester’s students include designing a communications system to communicate from under the ice of Jupiter’s moon Europa and an exploration mission that can withstand the harsh, toxic environment of Venus.
“I really enjoyed my undergraduate experience in his class,” said Brent Minchew, a graduate student who earned both his Master’s and Bachelor’s in Aerospace at UT. “He’s always this bundle of energy, always happy, smiling and encouraging. Dr. Fowler really loves this stuff and is really interested in his students, and I think that shows.”
Dr. Fowler was recently honored with the Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award and is a University Distinguished Teaching Professor.