Snapshot: Gary Wainwright
Image above: Gary Wainwright holds a model of the X-48C, the blended-wing body aircraft he has worked on in the Advanced Fabrication Processes Section. Photo credit: NASA/Sean Smith
By: Kathy Barnstorff
NASA Langley technician Gary Wainwright is a cross between a computer genius, draftsman and artist.
All three come in handy in his job as a lead technician in the Advanced Fabrication Processes Section. "I work directly within the rapid prototyping and digital manufacturing capabilities," said Wainwright. "My responsibilities include workflow to the various prototyping machines, managing projects and working in ProEngineer to develop the CAD files that are used to manufacture parts for our customers."
What does that mean to people who don't work in the world of computer aided design (CAD) and rapid prototyping?
Here's a translation. Rapid prototyping refers to technologies that can automatically build items from a computer drawing, in essence, three-dimensional printers. Machines in Wainwright's lab use computer "blueprints" to create objects, such as small models or parts of models, by stacking layers on top of one another.
It's a job Wainwright, who grew up in Hampton, was born to do. "When I was growing up I always enjoyed building things, now I get paid to do just that," he said. "My apprenticeship in the model shop and foundry when I first started at NASA prepared me for the job I have now."
One of the best parts of his work here, Wainwright says, is getting to imagine innovative ideas and then carrying them through the design phase to completion of a finished part. Then, even better, seeing parts become real products.
"One of the most interesting things about my job is the long lead time from the testing of concept models to the real vehicle flying," he added. "I’m just now seeing vehicles that I worked on at the beginning of my career being flown."
But life is not all work at Langley. He has plenty of projects at home, starting with four children: three girls and a boy, all under the age of 8. "When I am not at work you will find me on the water," said Wainwright. "I might be water skiing, kayaking, playing water volleyball, building sand castles with my kids, or more likely burning gas just riding around."
But he can’t keep all his building skills here at Langley. "I also keep myself busy by doing small building projects," Wainwright added. "I’ve built garages, sheds, piers, loft beds, book shelves and am currently rehabbing a 100-year-old cabin."
While Gary Wainwright loves constructing things with his hands, building lives is what he believes is one of his most memorable accomplishments.
"The most rewarding things I find are passing on knowledge to your children," he said. "You teach them to talk, read, ride bikes, fish and water ski. And then you get to sit back and watch the enjoyment their new skills bring them."
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