Meet: Kevin Copperfield
Who I am
I started my internship at NASA Ames Research Center in January. I had
just finished by first quarter in Machine Technology at DeAnza Community
College in Cupertino, California. My first couple of months I did a lot
of observing and doing simple manual machine operations (lathe and mill).
My shop is not a production shop. My shop supports the twelve foot pressure
wind tunnel. The kinds of tasks we have are repairs or make new parts.
Sometimes we are presented with an engineer's need for a bracket for mounting
an instrument. John Wallace, our mentor, and supervisor, will come up
with a drawing and sometimes we get to have input on the design. We work
on unique pieces.
An example of my work is making a bracket for some
switches. For this task we used a computer program called Surfcam. The
cam part of the name means that it is a Computer Aided Machining program.
We make a drawing of a part with the software. Then you send the computerized
drawing file to a machine with a controller that translates the geometry
represented by the drawing into commands to operate the tool to make the
cuts and then commands the drill to make the holes. We have two machines
that work with this software. One machine requires the operator to physically
place the tool in the machine that is required to do the work. Another
machine we have has many tools built on a robot arm and can rotate the
arm to use the required tool.
My biggest challenge has been learning how to make
the computer and the machine work together. This has also been really
My Career Path
While I was taking the Machine Classes, a student came and spoke to our
class to tell us about this Internship and it sounded like a really good
opportunity because it compliments what I am doing in school. In fact
many times the class material and the work experience have built upon
one another and in fact this has really been a good experience.
Because automation is becoming more and more prevalent
in the machine industry, I wanted to learn to use automated machines to
make myself more marketable. Previously I was helping to run my family
business, a hair salon. My wife is still running this business and I am
doing a career change.
Why I Like my Job
I learn something new everyday. I like learning stuff and this job is
I advise kids to start taking things apart and read about mechanical applications.
One book I recommend is The Way Things Work. There is a museum here called
the Tech Museum, which offers a fun way to learn about technology. I think
the main thing is to have fun pursuing your interest.
I would like to become a journeyman machinist and to make unique parts
in a Research and Development environment.
I am married and going to school and working so my hobbies are on hold
for now. I like sculpture, old clocks, calligraphy (fancy writing) and
am interested in knowing more about physics.