Kevin Fisher - Searching for Out of this World Signals
Kevin Fisher is tuned in to the Goes-R ground-based antenna system.
Glen Burnie, Maryland
Software Systems Engineer, GOES-R Ground Segment Project (GSP), Code 581
University of Maryland Baltimore County
Computer Engineering (PhD)
How you do your job and where you do it?
I’m a systems engineer for the GOES-R ground system, the set of ten ground-based antennas and the radio equipment that translates the faint signals from our spacecraft. In most projects, engineers are grouped into “boxes.” Systems Engineers are part of the box that connects to all the other boxes, defining the requirements and architectures they work to meet, tracking their status, assessing and mitigating potential risks, and constantly considering the effect of progress and changes in one box on all the other boxes.
What is a typical day on the job like for you?
It’s our job to be tuned into everything happening on the project, so we attend every project group’s weekly meeting. Then, we also have our own process
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Photo of Kevin Fisher. Credit: NASA/W. Hrybyk
meetings: risk boards, document reviews, failure review boards. We also like to keep apprised of what’s happening “above” us, so we tune into several Segment- and Program-level meetings. We read project management plans, software release notes, financial reports, test schedules, operator training manuals—you name it.
Do you use any cool tools, or instruments/equipment to do your job?
We travel frequently to labs and vendors’ factories, where we see a wide variety of equipment being built and tested. On any given week, my teammates may be in West Virginia watching a construction team pour concrete for an antenna station or in Texas testing our antennas’ feed horn, while I’m in a server room in Florida keeping tabs on an upgrade of the antenna control software. So we do get to see, and occasionally play with, a wide variety of pretty cool stuff.
In what way does teamwork play a role in your daily tasks?
Teamwork is critical! Monitoring a project this large takes experts in several fields. We rely on each other to be an expert in their own field, and know enough about each others’ fields to know when something interesting floats by and to get that information to the right person.
How did you find out about the opportunity here at Goddard?
A professor at UMBC sent an email about a NASA project that needed a summer student intern to a handful of bright seniors in my department and a junior they’d heard of from somewhere. I was that junior.
Who is the most interesting, inspiring, or amazing person you have met or worked with here at Goddard?
My first summer here, I worked on the Science and Engineering Network (SEN) team led by Pat Gary for most of his 40-plus years here at Goddard. I would often ride with him to work, and he’d bring papers, e-mails, photos and news clippings for me to read, and he would explain the things he had read and the things his group was working on. He had an exceptional command of the technical details his team was focused on, and could use his business skills to find opportunities for partnerships on increasingly audacious endeavors. If I’m ever half as effective a leader as Pat, I will have had a successful career here.
How will this opportunity help you reach your future goals?
Being a COOP has had a huge effect on my future. It’s given me the opportunity to work at Goddard, now that I’ve graduated, and have a career here supporting great projects as a systems engineer. I’m also quite sure that I would not have finished my Ph.D. were it not a COOP Program requirement, so thanks to that, my resume will always be just a little longer than it otherwise would.
What are your hobbies outside of the workplace?
I enjoy taking pictures, especially when I travel. Now that I’ve graduated, I look forward to reading books of my own choosing. My friends tell me there are books that don’t have equations in them.
Do you have a favorite book, magazine, movie, or TV show?
My favorite movie is certainly “Apollo 13” as a showcase of everything that makes Apollo-era NASA: its astronauts, Mission Control, and its engineers; the legend that still lives on today. I first saw it when it was released in the 1990s, and it’s one of the few movies I enjoy re-watching.
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