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James Hubbard, Jr.

Mechanical engineer and engineering professor James Edward Hubbard, Jr. was born on December 21, 1951 in Danville, Virginia. Hubbard received his high school diploma with a concentration in engineering in 1969 from the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute. In 1971, he enlisted as an officer in the U.S. Merchant Marine and served during the Vietnam War. He attended the Calhoon MEBA Marine Engineering School and became the youngest serviceman to receive the unlimited horsepower, steam and diesel engine Marine Engineering license from the U.S. Coast Guard. Returning to the United States, Hubbard began his undergraduate studies at Morgan State College, but after receiving encouragement from teachers, family and friends, he enrolled at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Hubbard went on to graduate from MIT with his B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in mechanical engineering in 1977, 1979, and 1982, respectively.

Hubbard has served as a professor and a researcher both inside and outside of academia. After receiving his Ph.D. degree, Hubbard continued his work as an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at MIT until 1985, and as a lecturer until 1994. While there, he mentored both graduate- and doctorate-level students. Following his tenure with MIT, Hubbard was hired at the Boston University Photonics Center, PhotoSense, Inc. and iProvica. In 2004, Hubbard returned to academia and was named the Samuel P. Langley Distinguished Professor Aerospace Engineering at the University of Maryland. Hubbard’s research has included sensors and system concepts, optoelectronics, and photonics. His work in 1985 resulted in the production of what many consider the first example of an “adaptive structure,” or a structure that can respond to changes in its environment. He also received a patent for his work with “Smart Skin” technology, or a large-area blanket-like sensor that could be used in a number of applications. His work with the Morpheus Laboratory, Hubbard’s research group at the University of Maryland and NIA, has focused on aerodynamic engineering and has resulted in such projects as ornithopters and the Sky Walker program.

Hubbard is a member of the Air Force Studies Board, the Naval Research Advisory Committee, and the Committee on Space Defense Technology. He has garnered several awards in recognition of his work in both industrial and academic settings. Hubbard was the 2009 recipient of the Smart Structures Product Innovation Award from the International Society for Optical Engineering. In 2002, Hubbard received the Black Engineer of the Year President’s Award from U.S. Black Engineer & Information Technology magazine.

Hubbard and his wife, Adrienne Hubbard, have three adult sons: James, Drew, and Jordan.

James Edward Hubbard, Jr. was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on May 19, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.090

Sex

Male

Interview Date

5/19/2013

Last Name

Hubbard

Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

E

Schools

Baltimore Polytechnic Institute

Calhoon M.E.B.A. Engineering School

Morgan State University

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Search Occupation Category
First Name

James

Birth City, State, Country

Danville

HM ID

HUB01

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Virginia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Anywhere Near Water

Favorite Quote

All that glitters is not gold

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Virginia

Birth Date

12/21/1951

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Hampton

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Flounder (Fried)

Short Description

Mechanical engineer and engineering professor James Hubbard, Jr. (1951 - ) served in the U.S. Merchant Marine during the Vietnam War and became the youngest serviceman to receive the unlimited horsepower, steam and diesel engine Marine Engineering license from the U.S. Coast Guard. Hubbard is the Samuel P. Langley Distinguished Professor Aerospace Engineering at the University of Maryland.

Employment

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Charles Stark Draper Laboratory

Optron Systems, Inc.

Boston University Photonics Center

PhotoSense, Inc.

National Institute of Aerospace

University of Maryland, College Park

improVica

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of James Hubbard's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - James Hubbard lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - James Hubbard describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - James Hubbard describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - James Hubbard talks about his parents' education and their employment

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - James Hubbard talks about his family living under the Jim Crow laws in Virginia

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - James Hubbard talks about how his parents met and were married

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - James Hubbard talks about his father's move to Philadelphia to escape the Jim Crow laws of the southern United States

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - James Hubbard describes his parents' personalities and who he takes after

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - James Hubbard talks about living in Philadelphia with his father for a year, and returning to Danville, Virginia

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - James Hubbard talks about his sister

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - James Hubbard talks about growing up in Danville, Virginia

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - James Hubbard describes his childhood in Danville, Virginia

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - James Hubbard talks about living under Jim Crow laws in Danville, Virginia

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - James Hubbard describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up in Danville, Virginia

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - James Hubbard talks about the teachers who influenced him in grade school

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - James Hubbard talks about his performance in math in grade school

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - James Hubbard talks about attending Calvary Baptist Church in Danville, Virginia

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - James Hubbard talks about the Civil Rights Movement and Bloody Monday in Danville, Virginia in 1963

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - James Hubbard talks about his mother's involvement in the Civil Rights Movement, and his family's move to Baltimore, Maryland

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - James Hubbard talks about his experience in school in Baltimore, Maryland, and how it impacted him

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - James Hubbard describes his experience at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - James Hubbard describes his experience in the U.S. Navy Sea Cadet Corps

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - James Hubbard talks about how he became a part of the Maryland Naval Militia

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - James Hubbard talks about his experience in the Maryland Naval Militia

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - James Hubbard talks about his experience at Calhoon MEBA, and entering the Vietnam War

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - James Hubbard describes his experience in the Merchant Marines as a ship engineer on an ammunition ship in the Vietnam War

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - James Hubbard reflects upon his experience with racism during the Vietnam War

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - James Hubbard describes his decision to attend Morgan State University and his experience there

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - James Hubbard talks about those who influenced him to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - James Hubbard describes his experience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and talks about his mentors there

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - James Hubbard talks about his mentors at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - James Hubbard talks about his involvement and leadership in the Black Mechanical Engineers (BME) organization at MIT

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - James Hubbard talks about HistoryMaker, Shirley Jackson, and the Bell Labs Fellowship for minority students

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - James Hubbard talks about his dissertation research in helicopter rotor acoustics at MIT

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - James Hubbard talks about his financial struggles as a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - James Hubbard describes his doctoral research on helicopter rotor acoustics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - James Hubbard talks about his mentor, Wesley Harris

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - James Hubbard talks about joining the faculty of the mechanical engineering department at the Massachusetts Institute of technology (MIT)

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - James Hubbard talks about his contributions to the field of piezoelectricity and smart structures - part one

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - James Hubbard talks about his contributions to the field of piezoelectricity and smart structures - part two

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - James Hubbard describes his decision to leave the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1985 - part one

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - James Hubbard describes his decision to leave the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1985 - part two

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - James Hubbard talks about working at Draper Laboratory, and with HistoryMaker Cardinal Warde at Optron Systems, Inc.

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - James Hubbard talks about his work with photolithography techniques and his decision to become the executive vice president of Optron Systems, Inc.

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - James Hubbard talks about co-founding the Boston University Photonics Center and founding PhotoSense, Inc. and iProvica, Inc.

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - James Hubbard talks about his invention of Smart Skin and his patents

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - James Hubbard describes his decision to accept a position as the Langley Distinguished Professor of Aerospace at the University of Maryland

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - James Hubbard talks about the students he mentored, and the "art of being a wolf"

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - James Hubbard describes his experience and his work at the National Institute of Aerospace (NIA)

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - James Hubbard talks about the Sky Walker Program

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - James Hubbard talks about his work on the Air Wolf Project

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - James Hubbard talks about founding a company with his son

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - James Hubbard talks about his wife

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - James Hubbard talks about his family

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - James Hubbard reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - James Hubbard reflects upon his life

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - James Hubbard talks about his father's training as a pilot and how he owned and flew a Piper Cub plane

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - James Hubbard describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community today

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - James Hubbard shares his perspectives on today's generation

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - James Hubbard talks about how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$6

DAStory

7$1

DATitle
James Hubbard reflects upon his experience with racism during the Vietnam War
James Hubbard talks about his work with photolithography techniques and his decision to become the executive vice president of Optron Systems, Inc.
Transcript
So did your view of the [Vietnam] war change any by being over there?$$Emm hmm (NODDING OF HIS HEAD).$$Okay.$$I grew up in the Maryland Naval Militia, part of a small elite team trained by a recon marine; we were all flavors. I was--you couldn't have found a more dedicated patriot; boy did I love my country, and I was proud of my skills; I had learned a lotta ways to kill a person at seventeen, like the military would, and volunteered. Even though I was sent over there by this guy to be hurt, I loved every minute of it. What happened was when I got there, two things happened; there were--everybody was there; there were all services, which shocked me; even Coast Guard. When we got there, you could look around, there was Coast Guard people, National Guard, there was Korean Elite Forces, I mean just around 'cause don't forget now, ships pull in, you got everybody running over there unloading it. I didn't expect that; there were uniforms and insignias that I did not recognize, and the white troops--if you weren't careful, they would call you Nigger in a minute--the white troops; that stunned me, that made a huge impact on me. And then I found out that a lotta them was getting fragged by the brothers over there--$$Emm hmm.$$--for that.$$And fragging is--$$Throw a hand grenade in the outhouse when they go to the bathroom, stuff like that (laughter).$$Getting rid of the Second Lieutenant or--$$They hated a lotta things man, you be walking down the street and a brother would see you and they had this thing that they would do; it was a sign thing.$$I believe it's called the Dap [ph.].$$No, it ain't no Dap. It was a lang-- (simultaneous)--it was a language; they would do this, and I found out that it meant 'Hi my brother, I would die for you.' It was stuff like that but it wasn't a Dap. You be walking, and on the other side of the street, a brother you ain't never seen, you turn to him and he would do this thing, and then you would learn how to answer him back. So it was more racist in Vietnam than it had been in Danville [Virginia], and I didn't expect that; I didn't expect that at all.$$Okay.$$Lotta killing; some guys on my ship killed some people and they (laughter) weren't even supposed to be doing that. Anyway. Nineteen [years old].$So what I was telling you Larry, was that Don [Donald] Fraser left [Draper Laboratory, Cambridge, Massachusetts] to become Deputy Undersecretary of Defense and I left because he was my mentor, and I left to help Cardinal Warde [also a HistoryMaker] because Cardinal was trying to develop a device that I had a lot of experience developing for Draper--$$Emm.$$--and, because of my background, he also wanted me to run the company.$$Okay now, what is this device?$$Do you wanna know technically what--well (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous)--Yeah, technically yeah.$$Okay. So it was during the Star Wars era, and there were a bunch of challenges for Star Wars; people were developing high-energy laser systems, alright? And what they would like for them to be able to do is sit on the ground and shoot down missiles, trying to hurt the United States. The problem, Larry, is when you shine a beam of light through the atmosphere, the currents in the air and all make the beam move all around. I mean if I aim at you if there's wind blowing, it'll blow--literally blow the--you know; I won't hit you. So one of the things you can do is take the beam of light and let it hit a mirror, and then steer the mirror to hit you; and then have a sensor that looks at all these air currents and as they wiggle the beam, the mirror wiggles in the opposite direction, and so the beam stays right on you and you're dead; that's called adaptive optics.$$Hmm.$$Well it turns out, it's really hard to do (laughter). The government, Lincoln Labs, had received a lotta money to develop the system I just told you about, but it turns out that the mirror has to be really flat and hard so they made it out of titanium. But the biggest mirror they could polish that flat was six inches. Then it turns out to do air currents, you have to have at least a thousand action waves on the back to wiggle the frequencies they want. They can only get 300 because it's only a six-inch mirror, and they used 300 piezo crystals to move it. Well, you gotta run piezos at 600 volts Larry; so they had 300 amplifiers in a room, air conditioned to get the 300 but I mean it was huge, it took up a whole building. When I was at Draper, I developed a two-inch mirror that had a million actuators on it. And, you could put it in your pocket; I have a patent on that--$$Hmm.$$--so Cardinal found out about that; I never published anything--a million. And so he was trying to develop the same kind of mirror to do large projection displays for movie theaters and for military use.$$Right, that's right.$$And so it was a natural--he was a gem; come on man (laughter). SAIC [Science Applications International Corporation]--I was interviewing with them 'cause I had worked with the founder of SAIC through Don Fraser; I had been on a government committee with him; his name was Larry Crowe and he was like--Larry Cole--and he was like "Jim, come and work with us." But then Cardinal--so I went with Cardinal and developed this deformable mirror. All kinds of photolithography techniques; I was there four years.$$Okay, and this was for Optron [Systems, Inc.]?$$Emm hmm (NODDING OF HIS HEAD YES), Optron.$$Optron, okay. Cardinal Warde.