Extended Course Description.  Course readings will be made available free in PDF form or with links to online sources.  Some examples of important Sheldahl product materials will be passed around.  Stories about the people, and the organizational, scientific, and engineering challenges and solutions will be shared, explained, and discussed, questions answered. 


  • Present a [mostly] correct chronological list of U. S. space exploration accomplishments that occurred with Sheldahl’s help.
  • Show that really small events can lead to large adventures.
  • Illustrate how a little-touted law of physics dramatically affected the adventures at Sheldahl and how it constantly enables and defines much of our daily lives.
  • Illustrate that with the right tools, great things can be accomplished.
  • Lead a course that is highly interactive and engaging.

Class 1:  The improbable beginnings—it all hinged on a little sniffing.

Reading:  Forty Years of Innovation: The Sheldahl Story

                 A Child of the Century

                The Bright Stuff

Class topics: Persistence can pay off.

                      The improbable path to space.

                      Very small events can have great consequences.

Class 2:  Sheldahl pivots to a different use of plastic in space; a chronology of tools; a really, really important law that governs our lives.

Reading:More than you want to know:         


Taste it and click on the notes among the equations.

And then for some good explanations of the what the math is really trying to tell us, I will point to some YouTube videos that are quite good.

Class topics: Two small numbers are the basis for a business (and also life on earth).

Class 3:  Stranger things.  Some things we were glad to have never really flown.



Excerpts from the blessing of Silver Teflon.pdf

Class topics: I will pass around a tiny piece of Mars!

Class 4:  The big one that got away.  Some details of planning and designing a big, big space experiment. (1970’s style) And the little gold mine that we did get.  Reflections on what we (the class) learned.

Reading: Heliogyro 1977 design paper.pdf

                 Heliogyro Solar Sail Research NASA.pdf

Class topics: How to think like a spacecraft designer.

                       Some reminisces of the tools available in the 70’s

                       We are on a spacecraft and need to think about its mission survivability. 

                       I will pass around a piece of Skylab (eBay is amazing)

                       I will pass around some slide rule design tools that are rather uncommon