Where are you from?
I was raised in Steamboat and Fort Defiance, both of which are in Arizona. These two towns are located on the Navajo Nation Reservation.
(I made the decision to move out of state when I enrolled at the Navajo Technical University (NTU) in Crownpoint, N.M.)
Describe the first time you made a personal connection with outer space?
I made my first personal connection with outer space when I was a young child -- before I even started grade school. I remember I was about five-years old, and I had a fascination with outer space and dinosaurs. This fascination came from the older generation always telling me - and my siblings - stories about our ancestors which often involved Mother Earth and Father Sky. These stories increased my curiosity in how the Universe was created and what makes up the great Universe we all live in.
These days, I always find myself watching documentaries on space science. I have also always wanted to see the Earth from outer space.
Our LADEE model went over and beyond the initial want of our client, and as a result of this success NASA is sending the university more files in order to create more models.
How did you end up working in the space program?
I enjoyed drawing, designing and building model cars when I was in high school. When I chose my major, I looked to incorporate my passion for model-building.
In 2010, while interning at NTU, I was given the opportunity to reverse engineer a satellite by NASA.
What it means to reverse engineer something is to measure an object without any CAD (computer-aided design) files for it - you have to recreate it without exact measurements.
I chose to create a model over a laser scanning project. I was given a 3D PDF file of NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) satellite to create a small scale model for NASA to use at events.
I became very interested in this project. Other interns and I had to measure all the components of the satellite in the 3D PDF software. Some of the parts were unrecognizable, so we had to improvise in order to complete these. This was a 10-week project, but with the amount of detail I wanted to add, it took me an additional year and a half to complete (of which I used much of my own personal time) in order to provide the best model I could design.
We at the university were pretty happy with the end product. Our LADEE model went over and beyond the initial want of our client; and as a result of this success, NASA is sending the university more files in order to create more models. My goal is to become a designer for NASA because I enjoy working with them.
Who inspired you?
I never really had a role model in my life, but in 2008 I was blessed with my one and only daughter -- she has given me all the inspiration I have ever needed. Though it's considered cliché, I want my daughter to have "the life I never had as a child."
What is a Student Intern?
My career has not officially started yet because I am still attending school at NTU. Since I am still in college, I am only a student intern. However, if I could choose a job title it would be mechanical designer. I would love to work in component design and simulation, as well as laser scanning.
Tell us about a favorite moment so far in your career.
I did enjoy being invited to NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Chincoteague Island in Virginia where I was pleased to see LADEE launch. I had never expected to travel to the East Coast, especially to a NASA center, but with hard work, dedication and ambition I was given the opportunity. This experience has motivated me to push even harder to do what inspires me. I am enjoying the outcome; I have met many scholars and have had the honor to work with NASA.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to take the same career path as you?
Embrace the career path you have chosen, and don't let anyone discourage you. I've had my share of people criticizing me; thinking that I am being over ambitious and trying to accomplish and push myself too far for my job. My response always is "I'm not doing this to impress anyone; I do the work because I want to see the results of my capabilities."
I haven't started my career yet, so I can't say what the actual job entails. I like to read about projects that interest me and apply their experience to my education so I can be as ready as I can be. As difficult as the path may seem, there are goals you are shooting for and it's going to take time and effort to get to where you want to be. The people who are making something out of themselves did not obtain their knowledge overnight, they show their worth first.
What do you do for fun?
I enjoy spending quality time with my daughter. We are the best of friends. We joke, play games, cook and even teach and learn together. When possible, I take her to work with me -- amazingly she enjoys watching me and often wants to help.
If you were talking to a student interested in science and math or engineering, what advice would you give them?
Choose a career that is best suited to your advantage. Don't let your job be work, let it be the hobby you get paid to do. When you choose a field you would like to have as your career, read about the companies and individuals who are in the same field and listen to what they have to say.