EDWARDS, Calif. – As a young child in Sarasota, Fla., Steven Humphrey perplexed his educator parents by taking apart the family's wireless telephone, inspecting the components and returning the phone to working order. Now, as an Undergraduate Student Research Program intern at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center on Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California, Humphrey is tasked with designing real-time computer displays to gather and interpret in-flight data.
Humphrey credits his father, who tackled a number of household projects during summers out of the classroom, and maternal grandfather, a self-taught engineer, with his curiosity for how things work. This took him from playing with LEGOs as a child to a fascination with machines and the study of engineering.
Humphrey is working in the NASA Dryden Engineering Directorate's Aerostructures Branch with the Interactive Analysis and Display System software, or IADS, for NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA. The SOFIA program is a partnership between NASA and the German Space Agency DLR to fly a highly modified Boeing 747SP aircraft carrying a sophisticated German-built 2.5 meter infrared telescope on worldwide astronomy missions.
The IADS system will gather, retain and interpret flight data from sensors installed on the SOFIA aircraft. The data will then be transferred from the IADS to a computer server on the aircraft and then to Dryden's mission control where the flight is monitored.
"Their heart is so into their work. Dryden gives employees the ability to flourish and succeed. There is a good intersection between passion and work," Humphreys said of Dryden personnel.
Humphrey has completed graduation requirements for a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering from the University of South Florida in Tampa.
When Humphrey's NASA internship ends in May, he will begin a summer internship at a South Florida company that manufactures hydraulic systems. In the fall he will enroll in a Master of Science in mechatronics program at the University of Applied Sciences at Ravensburg/Weingarten, Germany. Humphrey may search for a position at NASA following his March 2011 graduation.
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