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Meet: Mike Simundich


Senior Instrumentation Engineer,
NASA Ames Research Center

Who I Am
As an Instrumentation Engineer, I am responsible for the design and buildup of sensing devices that are used in wind tunnel tests. These devices measure the physical characteristics occurring on a model (such as an aircraft) during a wind test. They include forces, pressure, acceleration, wind speed, temperature and any other physical phenomena that a researcher is interested in evaluating for the design of their project. Most of my work was done in the Unitary Wind Tunnel complex which required a scaled down version of associated aircraft and products. My current work area is in the NFAC complex which uses the full scale replica testing models.

I have been assigned the Instrumentation Engineer for the AIAA 1903 Wright Flyer Wind Tunnel Test. The AIAA Wright Flyer Project Team has installed sensors on the model to measure the forces on the model during the wind tunnel test. Some of these sensors, or transducers, are on the wing tips, on the rudder and on the canard. These will be wired to a computer based on my wiring schematics.

Compared to the other tests I have worked on, the requirements for this test are not difficult because there is less instrumentation required. However, the model is powered by a remotely controlled electric motor. The electric motor chosen will create electromagnetic signals which might interfere with the onboard instrumentation. I will be challenged to design cabling and wire routing to minimize the effects of this electromagnetic interference on the instrumentation signals.

My Career Path
I went to college at Northrop University in Southern California. I was always mathematically inclined, and so I wanted to choose a degree that built on my interest in math. I studied electronic engineering. My friends and brother gave me advice that this would use my mathematics background and be more hands on.

After graduating with my bachelor's of science degree in electronic engineering, I got a job at Rockwell Corporation working on the B-1 bomber project. This project was canceled while I was working at Edwards Air Force Base, and I was able to transition to the Space Shuttle Project. I was a member of the launch team during the approach and landing test of the Enterprise space shuttle. I was responsible for the flight control systems which included complete end-to-end checks and launch preparations. This was very exciting because it was the first time a space vehicle was designed to re-enter the Earth's atmosphere and land safely. I had the opportunity to work with the astronauts who were aboard the Apollo program as well as future Shuttle pilots.

After the Approach and Landing Tests on the Enterprise, I went to work on the Columbia shuttle, which was the first shuttle launched in space. I was responsible for helping the buildup and checkout of the main computer system. At that time, the shuttle program was to be relocated in Florida and I wanted to remain in California so I moved to San Diego to work for General Dynamics on the Tomahawk Cruise Missile. During my time at General Dynamics I was able to travel to different test sites in New Mexico and Virginia. I enjoyed my experiences at these test sites. As the defense industry declined, General Dynamics sought other ventures, trimmed its defense activities and cut its work force.

I had a friend up here who told me about an opening at Ames Research Center as an instrumentation engineer, and I applied. I've been here ever since.

Why I like my Job
I like working at Ames; Ames offers a working atmosphere quite similar to the environment I enjoyed when doing field work for General Dynamics. The projects are interesting, and I have the opportunity to work hands-on with the instruments.

As a Child
The pioneers of space flight inspired me. I grew up during the early days of space flight.

I would advise students to have a strong background in computers. Our work here increasingly involves computers.

Early Influences
My father gave me lots of encouragement to pursue a college degree. My father was a commercial fisherman, primarily for tuna. He would be away for months at a time fishing off the coast of Mexico and South America. It was a very tough work, and he encouraged me to pursue college and take advantage of the opportunities he didn't have.

Future Goals
I hope to stay in the technical end of engineering.

I enjoy backpacking, fishing, bicycling and being outdoors. As a homeowner, I end up doing some projects around the house.


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