Alumni Profile

Shauna Richards

Shauna Richards.

I remember thinking "This is silly, it's so easy" and "gosh this person is useless." This sounds harsh but its very realistic to have to deal with people who don't pull their weight and finding a way to work with it. Also, sometimes the easiest tasks are just an opportunity to really explore. Once you have the basic concepts you have the freedom to do whatever you want to do."

Where I've Been

Cities

  • Houston, TX
  • Buffalo, NY

Organizations

  • NASA - Flight Operations

Positions

  • SPARTAN flight controller for ISS

What I've Done

What types of work have you performed? What projects have you worked on?
I have worked to become a flight controller for the space station and am currently working on gettin certified as an instructor for other flight controllers and astronauts.

What have been some favorite aspects of your work?
I like the challenges of fixing problems that come up on the station. If something goes wrong there isn't just one way to fix the problem and usually there are impacts to more than just my system. I work with the power system so a lot of failures means we have a loss of power to system users like computers, payloads, and environmental control equipment. The challenge is to get the most important stuff back first and coordinating getting everything back if possible.

What was one of your most satisfying days as an engineer?
The day I passed my final simulation to become a front room flight controller was probably my most satisfying moment. The (simulated) space station was tumbling and falling out of the sky but we, as a team, figure out a plan to keep the crew and station safe by thinking outside the box and thinking through all the impacts of the situation.

Was it worth it? What has your engineering background made possible for you? What value has it added to your overall life?
Getting an engineering degree honestly wasn't about what technical information I learned, it was more worth it for the way of thinking. It isn't easy to teach people how to think outside the box. The best way is with open ended questions and seeing where people take them. The other thing that was useful for me in my line of work was learning how people teach effectively.

There were a lot of bad teachers but by needing to learn the information, I learned how to teach myself and be self motivating. I also learned what isn't useful when I begin to instruct others what they need for our jobs.

Why it Matters

What would you say to the freshmen currently sitting in your shoes?
I remember thinking "This is silly, it's so easy" and "gosh this person is useless." This sounds harsh but its very realistic to have to deal with people who don't pull their weight and finding a way to work with it. Also, sometimes the easiest tasks are just an opportunity to really explore. Once you have the basic concepts you have the freedom to do whatever you want to do.