Where are you from?
I grew up in Altadena, Calif. And I now live in Atlanta, Ga.
Describe the first time you made a personal connection with outer space.
One day in junior high school, people from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) came to my school (Elliot Middle School) to judge our egg-drop contest. Their presence was my first personal connection to NASA at that time.
How did you end up working in the space program?
|"A robotics engineer designs, builds|
and programs robots to perform
jobs that are either too dangerous,
tedious or currently impossible for humans."
By my first year in college, I knew I wanted to work at JPL as a summer intern -- which I did. And during my first summer there, I worked on converting FORTRAN to C for a DSN database; that is converting the old code used to store data retrieved from NASA spacecraft to a new updated code that would work faster on current computers.
Who inspired you?
I was inspired by the TV show "The Bionic Woman," in which a severely injured woman attains extraordinary powers through artificial (bionic) limbs. I decided at age 11 that I wanted to create artificial limbs for people. I planned to go to medical school, but discovered I hated biology in high school -- especially dissecting frogs. Then I heard about robotics and realized that, if I became an engineer, I could do exactly what I wanted to do -- and no frogs!
What is a Robotics Engineer?
Besides being the coolest job in the world, a robotics engineer designs, builds, and programs robots to help scientists (and humans) perform jobs that are either too dangerous, tedious, or currently impossible (such as living on the planet Mars) for humans.
Tell us about a favorite moment so far in your career.
Testing my "SnoMotes" in the Alaskan Glaciers was a great moment for me in my career. This proved that I could go through the full cycle of designing, building and programming rovers to grab scientifically interesting data from arctic environments.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to take the same career path as you?
Don't let anybody persuade you to give up. Know that you are going to experience adversity, but deal with it and keep going in spite of it.
What do you do for fun?
I am especially enthusiastic about sharing my career with the community. In addition to speaking about robotics at local schools, I host a number of robotic camps for middle and high school students. All the community efforts actually occupy a lot of my time, but it's fun because they're social activities with a good cause. It's really rewarding when you hear people say, "Maybe I can do that," or "I want to hear more." I look at their eyes and think: Wow, I really do have a cool job.
If you were talking to a student interested in science and math or engineering, what advice would you give them?
Don't be afraid that by being interested in math or science that you won't be able to have fun -- you can still join clubs and play sports. You don't have to be a nerd that wears glasses and a pocket protector.
Last Updated: 3 January 2013
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