Career Spotlight: Robotics Engineer

My name is Maria Bualat, I work at NASA
Ames Research Center. It’s one of 10 NASA centers around the country, and I work in
robotics, space robotics. It’s so cool that the things I build
go up into space. I talk to astronauts, you know, from time
to time. It’s so exciting, and I feel like the job is also
i’m doing something that’s good for humanity as well. We’re finding out new
things about the universe all the time, and I’m constantly learning, too. That’s
the other thing — i learn something new almost every day on this job. So, my current project is called Astrobee, and it’s a free-flying robot
for the International Space Station. The idea is that this robot will float
around in a space station. It has some cameras, it can do
inspections, it will also have other sensors. For instance, carbon dioxide
sensor, so it can check the quality of the air. My typical day: I spend a lot of time on
the computer because I work in software systems. I actually do a lot of project
management and systems engineering which is sort of at the top level of a
development project. So, you set the goals of the project, you set the requirements
for the engineers to meet. I also meet with a lot of people. So, we have engineering meetings where we’ll sit around and brainstorm about how to solve issues that we’re having or we come up with new ideas of “wouldn’t be cool if we did this”. I do occasionally though get to do some
fun stuff where I get to go out into the field or when we want to test our robots, we take them to places that are very stark, very lifeless. I knew from a pretty early
age that I wanted to be an engineer for NASA. When I was in the 7th grade, I
was reading a newspaper and I came across an article about women engineers
at NASA — and so that sort of set the direction for my education through high
school and through college. I got a degree in electrical engineering and then went on and got my master’s degree, and I lucked out — NASA came recruiting to my school! And so I went in for an interview and I got a job right out of school, and I’ve
been here ever since. Obviously, if you’re thinking about this
career path, you probably already like math and science. My one piece of advice you wouldn’t
think of is don’t ignore your communication skills because you don’t
realize how much of your job is actually communicating your ideas to
other people — and it’s not just speaking skills, it’s also writing. Writing is
critical. When you’re out there, you know, doing your math, doing your science — take the writing class, too.

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