Campus / City / News

Tesla founder comes to campus

By Michael Wafford
News Editor

Trying to learn you somethingWorld renowned inventor and designer Elon Musk brought his soft-spoken demeanor and depth of knowledge to California State University, Bakersfield.

The Doré Theatre overflowed as more than 450 people crowded inside the room to hear Musk speak about his beginnings as a co-founder of PayPal to his current endeavors in renewable energy, electric vehicles and space exploration.

Due to an effort by both CSUB President Horace Mitchell and Congressman Kevin McCarthy, Elon Musk was brought to CSUB to speak to students, staff and the Bakersfield community as part of CSUB’s Distinguished Speaker Series.

Musk was introduced by Mitchell and McCarthy while the last few bodies crowded into the Doré Theatre and others crammed themselves into the Albertson Room.

“His work is very innovative in his fields,” said Sofia Sorn, a senior biology major who attended

Musk is the first of many speakers in the series,according to Mitchell.

“The distinguished speaker series is about celebrating what Bakersfield and Kern County do well,” McCarthy said.

“My whole goal inside this series is to bring more entrepreneurs to town. Why? Because, I do want this college, at the end of the day, to be known as the entrepreneurial college of this country,” McCarthy said.

“Unique things that have changed our country already. He didn’t want to make a car like everybody else. He made it different for the future. Space-X – NASA contracts with him. The only private company going up [to the International Space Station]. He proved that he could do it cheaper,” McCarthy said.

The multi-billionaire is the CEO and chief designer of his companies Space-X and Tesla Motors. Musk is also a chairman for the company SolarCity which he co-founded in 2006.

Throughout the night Musk was compared to Marvel Comic’s Tony Stark, better known as Iron Man, by the audience. This isn’t a coincidence; Jon Favreau, director of “Iron Man” and “Iron Man 2” said he based Stark’s persona on Musk in a 2010 issue of Time.

The Marvel avenger and Musk are at both the forefront of their fields with Musk winning awards and recognition from the National Wildlife Federation, and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Like Stark, Musk is obsessed with providing the world with clean, renewable energy. However, Musk doesn’t make use of an arc reactor like Iron Man. Instead, he looks toward the stars for the future of Earth’s energy needs.

Musk is a believer in solar energy and said that he sees most forms of transport, aside from space travel, relying on electricity in the future. Musk said that the goal of Tesla motors is be a catalyst for the advancement of sustainable transport. To do this, Musk said he sees Tesla Motors entering the mass market – producing a large amount of cars at prices below the current $63,000 price for the Tesla Model S.

His interests exist outside of land travel. “When I was studying in college I was thinking about what would have the most impact on society. Those things were space travel, sustainable energy, travel, genetics and artificial intelligence,” said Musk who is already at the forefront of three of those five fields.

Brandon Mann/The Runner Congressman McCarthy introducing Elon Musk's presentation at CSUB

Brandon Mann/The Runner
Congressman McCarthy introducing Elon Musk’s presentation at CSUB

Musk hurried through his speech so that the audience would have time for a question and answer session.

During the session Musk answered the question of why he bases his business in California, where he admits that the taxes and industry regulation can be counter-intuitive to his goals at times.

“Due to the great concentration of engineering talent in northern California. . . southern California has the highest concentration of aerospace talent in the country.”

Musk did admit that if California lost its pool of talent that the allure of California wold be lost. However, Musk did say that governments in California are cooperative with his company’s goals and work to keep them in state.

Musk was critical of California’s high speed rail initiative. While Musk said he believes high-speed rail is a CSUB student Sean Acord good endeav or, he said that California’s planned system is worse than Japan’s and doesn’t “hold a candle” to China’s.

He said that California deserves a “badass” rail system that goes beyond what anyone else is doing at the moment while still being sustainable and affordable for the average person.

“He was great. He spoke about everything he’s been doing. You expect him to be like Tony Stark but when gets up there he’s soft spoken,” said Sean Acord, a junior engineering major. “He’s thinking of things that no one else is pursuing. He’s stepping out beyond what normal humans do.”

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