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April 13, 2024

Meet Nigerian scientist, Robert Okojie, with inventions helping NASA spacecraft in extreme environments

Meet Nigerian scientist, Robert Okojie, with inventions helping NASA spacecraft in extreme environments

Dr Okojie in a science lab; and in a official dress

By Biodun Busari

A United States-based Nigerian scholar, Dr Robert Sola Okojie, has been inducted into the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Inventors Hall of Fame for his incredible 21 patented inventions. 

Okojie has worked with NASA, a US government agency that is responsible for science and technology related to air and space, for over 20 years.

He developed silicon carbide-based microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) which are used in extreme environments.

With his years with NASA, Okojie has been recognised as the leading expert in designing the world’s first thermally stable ohmic contact metallisation on silicon carbide at record-breaking temperatures for extended periods.

His research works helped in paving for high-temperature sensors and electronics at extreme atmospheres that can substantially improve safety and efficiency, as well as directly impact the air quality around airports.

The scholar developed the first accelerated stress test protocol published in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) International Reliability Physics Symposium.

Okojie was born in Barkin-Ladi, Plateau State, Nigeria, to Prince Francis A. Okojie and Juliana Omakhamen Okojie (née Odigie), from the royal family of King Ogbidi Okojie (1857-1944) of Uromi who was a ruler of the Esan people in what is now Edo State, Nigeria

He had his secondary school education at Ibadan Boys’ High School in Oyo State, Nigeria, and travelled to the US to attend college in 1986.

He attended the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark, where he obtained his bachelor’s (1991) and master’s (1993) in electrical engineering respectively. He further earned his PhD in 1996.  

Okojie joined the silicon carbide research group at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, US in 1999.

Among the 20 patents relating to high-temperature devices he invented, include several licenses for commercial use that could reduce spacecraft weight, and thereby launch cost and fuel consumption, while leaving additional space for scientific payloads.

For his sterling space-related achievements, Okojie has received accolades, including the NASA Abe Silverstein Medal for Research in 2009 and the Glenn Research  Distinguished Publication Award in 2012. 

He also bagged the Scientist of the Year by the National Technical Association for advancing the state-of-the-art of MEMS for use in harsh environments and, in 2007 was a recipient of the Cleveland Executive Board Wings of Excellence award.

Okojie’s induction into the NASA Inventors Hall of Fame on November 22, 2020, made him the 35th recipient of the prestigious honour and the fourth Black -African to be inducted.

With Okojie’s world-class recognition at NASA, it is pertinent to say that Nigerians are blazing the trail in contributing to the advancement of the digital age with their inventions.

Nigeria, the biggest economy on the African continent boasts of scholars who invented a device to detect bombs, developed an insect-control technology, and designed a breast cancer detection bra, among others.