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Meet: Mike Herrick

Senior Electrical Engineer

Who I am
I'm a Senior Electrical Engineer working primarily with motors and controls in two major wind tunnel facilities: the National Full-Scale Aerodynamic Complex (NFAC) and the Unitary Plan Wind Tunnel. These motors are huge, with thousands of horsepower (HP). I write specifications to repair, rewind (similar to overhauling automobile engines, this involves replacing copper conductors and insulation) and test motors. I also modify motors to increase horsepower and improve their performance.

My career path
I decided to go into engineering while taking physics in high school-it was the first class that I really got into. What I enjoyed most was the teacher, the math, the scientific methods and experiments we did. After high school I attended the University of Arizona and took lots of math, physics and engineering.

In the summer I worked for the University of Arizona, building and testing circuits and taking data for lightning research. There are many electrical storms in Arizona in summer-almost every day in July and August. We tried to photograph a lightening stroke and record the amplitude of the current. We used a high-speed camera focused on a metal spike that would attract lightning.

I started working for NASA right after graduation. And except for a few years when I worked for the Army Corps of Engineers, a consulting engineering company in wastewater treatment, and for GE working on power generation, I have worked for NASA my whole career.

Job likes/dislikes
I like to see projects completed and working. Some projects take a long time to finish- sometimes eight to ten years (because we're working on BIG facilities). Another thing I enjoy about my job is mentoring new engineers. The truth is, I love getting up and coming in to work every day.

As a child
When I was young, I liked to build things like model airplanes, and I also liked taking things apart, such as watches. I also liked working on gas engines and was given one when I was 10. It was from an old washing machine and had a kick-start pedal. I tinkered with electrical motors and blew a couple up! Fortunately, no one was hurt. The books I enjoyed the most were about dogs and airplanes.

Advice
Take math and physics courses, build electronic circuits, use computers to solve math problems and to write (not just for computer games!).

Also, consider becoming an amateur radio operator. It teaches you about communications and how to design and build electronic circuits; you meet nice people who will teach you. You can be involved in public service as a volunteer communicator during emergencies and/or special events, and you can also talk to people from around the world.

Try building and flying model airplanes. You will learn about small gasoline engines and how to use your hands. You need to have someone be your mentor.

Early influences
During my high school years, my father wanted me to go to college and study engineering. He had been a welder and could build ANYTHING. He also knew the value of an education, especially a technical degree.

My high school physics teacher was another major influence. He was also the Science Coordinator for the Tucson Public School System. I remember he wore a slide rule tie-tac, and I learned to use a slide rule as a junior in high school.

Electrical engineering is heavily math oriented, and one of my math professors in college was an outstanding mentor. He really made a difference.

Future plans
I'll continue engineering for a few more years and continue learning.

Personal
I'm married. I met my wife when she was working for NASA. We have a son and a daughter, and we have two dogs and one cat: the German Shepherd is 11, the Dalmatian is 8, and the grey cat is 6.

I like to fish and fly airplanes (I do this at a flying club at a local airport). I have an old sports car (MGB), and I like to repair things and fix up the house. My wife enjoys these projects, too.

After I retire from NASA, I'll probably do some consulting and design work and continue mentoring younger engineers. I'd like to volunteer more and help others, perhaps in Habitat for Humanity. I also want to travel more.

 
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