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Meet: Estela Hernandez

Flight Simulation Engineer, Vertical Motion Simulator,
Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA

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Who I Am
I am a flight simulation engineer at the Vertical Motion Simulator. We analyze mathematical models for development in real-time software. The models are used to assist the researchers in better understanding the aircraft. We interface computers with the cockpit and lab hardware. Then we conduct piloted flight simulation experiments with researchers.

We have a variety of customers from the military to commercial aircraft manufacturers. We simulate different types of aircraft such as helicopters, fighter planes, and the space shuttle.

My Career Path
When I graduated from high school, I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do so I attended a junior college for about three years. While attending the junior college, I spoke with one of my math instructors, Joe Gerda, who suggested I look into engineering. I looked at different engineering programs and aeronautical engineering looked the most interesting to me.

I received my bachelor's degree in engineering from California Polytechnic State University. Engineering requires a good amount of math classes. I learned that with a good understanding of math you can explain how certain things work. While at Cal Poly, I got interested in computers so I decided to get a minor in computer science. After the third year at Cal Poly, I got a summer internship at Ames Research Center. The internship helped me apply what I had learned in college. The internship also helped to confirm my interest in aeronautical engineering.

When I graduated there were no openings at Ames so I went to work for Lockheed. I worked on simulations for missiles. After about a year, I came to work at Ames.

What I Like About My Job
I like working with people from different backgrounds. Some studied aeronautical engineering, mechanical engineering, and computer science. Others attended a trade school. One of the things I enjoy is being able to apply what I learned in college to my job, it makes my job even more interesting.

When we are in the lab with a lot of researchers and they have a limited amount of time to get their work done, there can be a lot of pressure. It never gets really bad because there is always somebody you can turn to for help.

When I Was A Kid
I was born in Zacatecas, Mexico. When I was six years old, my family and I moved to the United States. I grew up with four brothers and two sisters. As a child, I enjoyed taking things apart in order to figure out how they worked. My parents always encouraged us to go to college and study what interested us.

I definitely recommend taking lots of math and computer science classes. This will allow you to see different career options. The job market is very competitive, and having a solid foundation in math and science can help you find a job.

Future Plans
I would like to get my master's degree in engineering or business. I will probably start the master's program in about a year.

Personal Information
In my spare time I like to play volleyball and softball. I have always enjoyed dancing, so a few months ago I started taking lessons. My favorite type of dancing is Salsa dancing.

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