Joe Blitzstein’s free online stat course helps put a critical satellite in orbit

Rafael Irizarry

As loyal readers know, we are very enthusiastic about MOOCs. One of the main reasons for this is the potential of teaching Statistics to students from all over the world, in particular those that can’t afford or don’t have acces to college. However, it turns out that rocket scientists can also benefit. Check out the feedback Joe Blitztsein, professor of one of the most popular online stat courses,  received from one of his students:

As an “old bubba” aerospace engineer I watched your Stat 110 class and enjoyed it very much. It sure blew out a lot of cobwebs that had collected over the past 35 years working as an aerospace engineer. As you might guess, we deal with a lot of probability. Just recently I was involved in a study to see what a blocked Reaction Control System (RCS) might do to a satellite… I am a Spacecraft Attitude Control systems engineer and it was my job to simulate what would happen if a certain RCS engine was plugged. It was a weird problem and it inspired me to watch your class… Fortunately, the statistics showed that the RCS nozzles that could get plugged would have a low probability and would not affect our ability to adjust the vehicle’s orbit. And we launched it this past summer and everything went perfect! So I just wanted to tell you that when you teach your “kiddos” tell them that Stat 110 has real life implications. This satellite is a critical national defense asset that saves the lives of our soldiers on the ground.”

I doubt “Old Bubba” has time to go back to school to refresh his stats knowledge… but thanks to Joe’s online class, he no longer needs to. This is yet another advantage MOOCs offer: giving busy professionals a practical way to learn new skills or brush up on specific topics.