We’ve blogged about Natalie Panek for Ada Lovelace Day before- she’s doing great things in her field and is a great advocate for women in STEM fields. The Blueprint recently interviewed her and she had some realy interesting and poignant thoughts to share. Head over to The Blueprint to read the full interview.
Natalie Panek is a Mission Systems Engineer at MDA and an aspiring astronaut. She’s currently on a mission to inspire more women to get into the STEM fields. We sat down with Natalie to discuss mentorship, space debris and women in STEM.
What’s your story?
I am going to be an astronaut. I have had this long-term goal of traveling to space for a while now, with an awareness that the odds of actually getting to go are pretty small. So in the meantime, I have tried to build a skillset that might help me strategically venture beyond earth. If I don’t ever get to space, I will still have had really cool, amazing adventures and experiences that I can draw on and encourage others to dream big and work outside their comfort zones.
What are some of those experiences that will help you become an astronaut?
Everything from learning to fly a plane, to building and driving a solar-powered car across North America, to my love of the outdoors and the wilderness, and now working at a company that builds space robots.
What is your role at MDA?
I do a lot of systems and operations engineering at MDA’s Robotics and Automation Division, which built the Canadarm, Canadarm2, and Dextre robots. That means I do upfront concept development, mission planning and then creating requirements that the design adheres to when we’re building robotic products for customers. I also model robots in their workspace using 3D software to make sure that, in advance of doing something in an extreme environment, (i.e. space), the engineers and scientists know exactly where the robotic arm can go, where it needs to move to, what camera views operators need, or what structures the robot could potentially collide with. You do not want collisions when millions of dollars’ worth of hardware are launched into outer space.