Space Systems Engineer
I build robots that are used on Earth to test software, navigation and sensors for robots that will explore Mars, Moon and other places.
I work at RAL Space in the Autonomous Systems Group.
Let’s see what that means.
RAL is the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory named after two British physicist and has over one thousand staff who support the work of over ten thousand scientists and engineers.
Space means RAL Space is a special part of RAL that is dedicated for space research and building and operating satellite instrument, satellites and to support other space missions.
Autonomous means the things we build have to be smart and have to do things by themselves.
Systems means we looking at how these smart things interact with each other and we can design them to complete their mission together.
Finally group means we are a bunch of people.
My Typical Day
I code, solder, build, design, meet people, write documents and a lot of emails and sometimes go on a trip.
I suppose the typical day would be coming to work, typing things on the keyboard, possibly having lunch, typing some more and going home.
However I hardly ever have a typical day. The things I type sometimes move robots, satellites, sometimes make things work and sometimes break things that need fixing afterwards. Sometimes the typing doesn’t happen in the office at all but on the top of a mountain in the Atacama desert. Almost every day people would interrupt my typing to talk to me. Most of the time I would tell them I have already emailed them earlier. Sometimes we would discuss new ideas, try to solve problems and sometimes we would build robots.
What I'd do with the money
I would build 4 robots that can be used to teach more about programming at schools and events.
Programming is fun and very-very useful no matter what you do. One of the funnest way to lear programming is to interact with hardware, that is making things move, blink, sing and so on. However our time at schools and events is very limited so it would be great to build 4 small robots we can take easily anywhere and can be programmed to do things in a matter of minutes. This way kids would see that programming isn’t hard, it is fun and understand a bit better how computers work. Of course if you have more minutes they could be programmed to do clever things like navigate obstacles, pick things up, make drawings or dance.
I know it is only 4 robots, but that is 4 robots more than before! Also the robots can be used for many years potentially participating in many events and workshops.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Fun, adventurous and geeky
Who is your favourite singer or band?
I don’t have one i like lots of different music, like discovering new things from other countries.
What's your favourite food?
turkey with cheese and bacon on top
What is the most fun thing you've done?
International Astronautical Congress 2008 (that comes before visiting a live vulcano and off-roading in Chile. I told you I’m geeky)
What did you want to be after you left school?
I wanted to build things! Occupation irrelevant although space is cool.
Were you ever in trouble at school?
No and you can’t prove it otherwise :-P
What's the best thing you've done as an engineer?
Have my work published and discussed by scientists worldwide.
If you weren't an engineer, what would you be?
Astronaut, next best thing. Maybe psychology or neuroscience.
Tell us a joke.
What is it big, yellow and hurts when it gets in to your eyes? A digger.
Some of our robots in our Mars-like test yard.
Or newest robot, that will be able to moonwalk.
Typical day in the office.
My colleague Wayne launches our UAV, I wear a silly hat. Atacama desert, Chile near the Paranal Observatory (you can see it in the background)
Big Bang fair.
Our 4 m by 4 m space simulator for satellites.
8 itterations of the same electronics board, almost done, I just need to change one more thing…