PBL grad coming home for speech about flying cars

Chamber to host Terrafugia exec at annual meeting

Paxton-Buckley-Loda graduate Samuel Schweighart will be the featured speaker at the annual meeting of the Paxton Area Chamber of Commerce on Feb. 18 at Lakeview Country Club in Loda.

Schweighart is vice president for engineering of Terrafugia, a company he co-founded with several fellow students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Terrafugia's goal is to provide innovative solutions to the challenges facing personal aviation.

The company is currently designing, building and test-flying a "roadable aircraft." It's an airplane with foldable wings that can be driven as well – a "flying car."

The company has been in existence for about three years. The inventors have designed, built, flown and driven their first vehicle.

Photos and videos are available on the company's Web site at http://www.terrafugia.com.

They are designing their second prototype and expect to deliver their first plane in the fourth quarter of 2011. The design will be finished in four weeks, and Schweighart hopes they can begin building the ultimate product shortly after some peer review. The company has deposits from 90 people who are interested in purchasing a vehicle.

Schweighart will speak about the history of Terrafugia and about flying cars in general. He will also talk about the challenges inherent in designing, building and testing such vehicles and what goes into creating an aviation startup.

Schweighart said he is looking forward to the trip home from Boston that he makes about once a year. He will also speak at St. Matthew Grade School, which he attended through the fourth grade; Clara Peterson Elementary in Paxton, where his mother, Sandy, is secretary; and St. Malachy School in Rantoul, where a family friend teaches.

Schweighart graduated from PBL in 1995 and obtained a bachelor of science degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Illinois in 1999. He earned a master's degree in 2001 and a Ph.D. in 2005, both in aerospace engineering from MIT.

Schweighart has worked as an engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the MIT Space Systems Lab and Draper Laboratories. He has served as a paramedic for years, starting in high school, and co-founded MIT's emergency medical service.

Schweighart continues the tradition of chamber speakers who are local products who have done well in their chosen occupations. The chamber has 130 members from Paxton and the surrounding area.

Dinner reservations for the annual meeting are due today. Call the chamber office at 379-4655 to order either the beef or chicken dinner for $20.

The social time begins at 6 p.m. Feb. 18; dinner will be served at 6:30.

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