Kennedy Space Center, Fla.
June 16, 2004
Education, Family Values Inspire NASA Engineer
Who says there's no room for old-fashioned virtue in the space age? For Michelle Amos, there's nothing maudlin or clichéd about "family values." Thanks to her parents' encouragement and their abiding emphasis on education and hard work, Amos says the sky was the limit for her and her siblings.
Today, this NASA engineer takes those childhood lessons to heart and helps ensure there are no limits for future generations of young explorers.
"We truly make history every day at NASA," said Amos, who serves NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC), Fla., as an electronics design engineer. "The things my parents taught me about life gave me the knowledge and opportunity to make things better, not just here on Earth, but in space as well," she added.
Amos designs electrical systems and control equipment in KSC's Advanced Technology Development Center, a proving ground for equipment that will be used on future space projects. She also works on a support team for the International Space Station, modifying electrical system designs, maintaining drawings, and configuring and documenting electrical equipment used to support the Space Station ground support equipment.
None of Amos's accomplishments come as a surprise to her parents; they always expected much from their kids. Their father, Dunk Wright, a retired carpenter, and mother, Dorothy Wright, a food service technician. (Amos laughs fondly at this "title," amending it: "She was a cafeteria worker," she says.)
Her parents raised their 10 children on seven acres in Baker, La., just outside Baton Rouge. Michelle, the youngest, graduated in 1989 from Southern University in Baton Rouge, the seventh of her siblings to achieve such a milestone.
"They told us education was a must, and all of us are successful because of that," said Amos, who also earned a master's degree in engineering management in 2003 from the University of Central Florida in Orlando.
It was the influence of several older siblings that helped shape her career path. "Three of my brothers were engineers, and they told me it was a wide-open field for women," she said. "I had done well in science and math and was in the top fourth of my high school class, so I decided that was the way to go," Amos said.
Amos joined NASA in 1990, as an electronics design engineer in the Engineering Development Directorate, and continued to revere the values her parents had imparted to help others. She served from 2001-2003 on KSC's Black Employee Strategy Team, a group that encourages African-Americans to pursue leadership excellence and career development.
Since October 2003, she has served as volunteer chairwoman in KSC's Change Leaders Network, a team that promotes and facilitates progressive leadership tools and techniques for employees.
Amos also participates in the "Women of NASA" program, encouraging girls and women, through live Web chats and forums, to pursue scientific studies. She has served as a volunteer for numerous career days and science fairs and was instrumental in bringing some of the remaining Tuskegee Airmen, America's first black military aviators in World War II, to KSC's 2003 All-American Picnic.
Amos has mentored students through NASA's Summer High School Apprenticeship Research Program and encourages young people to never stop learning.
"Your words and actions can inspire others to become something great. To make a positive influence in someone's life is a priceless reward." Amos tells them.
Media organizations interested in interviewing Amos should contact Tracy Young, KSC Public Affairs at: 321/867-9284.
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