Meet: David Mayer
RAHF Project Manager
Lead Mechanical Engineer for ARC Neurolab Payload
SLE Assistant Branch Chief
Ames Research Center
Who I Am
As the Research Animal Holding Facility (RAHF) project manager my job
was to orchestrate the refurbishment of the RAHF. I brought together a
team of engineers, scientists and technicians to redesign and refit RAHF
in various ways to prepare it for the Neurolab mission.
As the lead Mechanical Engineer, I coordinated the efforts of several
engineers to address the ARC portion of the structural and thermal requirements
for spaceflight. As the assistant branch chief, I was the chairman of
the design review team for the stowage effort on Neurolab in addition
to "other duties as assigned."
My Career Journey
I always wanted to be an engineer. When I was younger I just didn't
know it was called engineering. I was the kid who disassembled the telephone
(I have reassembled several that work), built go-carts, and modified bicycles
(I built my own bike frame at age 13). Then I found cars.
I was very active in modifying cars for racing and off-road use in high
school and in my early 20s. During my senior year of high school my partner
and I won the State, National, and International Championships in the
Plymouth Troubleshooting Contest (now sponsored by AAA).
After high school and some tech schooling I ran my own shop where I
worked developing custom turbocharged engines and race cars in addition
to regular auto repairs. The custom work brought me into contact with
real engineers and the concept of "modeling" several solutions on paper
before you build the hardware. I decided to return to school and pursue
a mechanical engineering degree.
I went first to the local community college called De Anza College and
then to Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo,
CA, where I graduated Cum Laude. At school I worked on a human powered
helicopter and an ultra-high mileage vehicle (1,000MPG). I worked a summer
at Lockheed Missiles and Space Company, as well as in the CAD [computer
assisted design] lab for Cal Poly.
After graduation, I got my dream job working on space flight hardware
The rest, as they say, is history.
Likes/Dislikes about career
I really enjoy the reaction I get from people when they find out I'm an
engineer at NASA. I really like building things and seeing the hardware
we put together work.
Lots of paperwork.
Preparation for Career
Be inquisitive. I was very inquisitive and had the good luck of having
parents and adults around me that helped me answer the questions I was
interested in. I encourage kids to ask "Why?" and don't stop until you
have an answer that you understand. To adults, as much as possible, never
answer with "Because." Because is not a responsive answer. There is usually
a reason why something is done a particular way.
I read a lot of different kinds of books - still do. I read technical
books, "hobby" books (woodworking, cars, dogs, ...), interpersonal books
about how to better myself and work better with other people, science
fiction books, and map books (I like maps). I generally try to find books
on any subject I'm interested in.
Never give up. I grew up in the '60s with astronauts as heroes. I didn't
think I would ever be involved with the space program though.
Build stuff. I like to build things and feel there is no substitute
for hands-on experience. Build with wood, metal, plastic, paper, fabric,
whatever is available and appropriate for the project. When you build
a project you learn about what is and isn't possible with that material.
You also learn organizational skills for laying out a project and completing
it. When you build your own design you learn even more.
There were several, but two people really stand out in my mind. The
first is a teacher I had in elementary school: Van Adams. He taught me
that if there was anything I wanted to do or learn I had to do it or learn
it for myself. Nobody else could learn for me, or do much of anything
else for me, if I didn't do it myself.
The second was Jim Deteach. He introduced me to the engineering concept
of modeling in the real world, modeling a real world system with math,
and is largely responsible for my return to school as an engineer.
I am getting married on May 31, 1998 to a wonderful woman named Margaret.
We have two dogs, Nikki and Shasta.
We enjoy camping, backpacking and four wheeling in my Jeep. I'm a member
of the California Association of 4 Wheel Drive Clubs (they have a web site) and Fremont F-troop Jeep Club.
We are also buying a 160 acre ranch in Shasta County (Gunnysack Ranch)
to retire on someday. It has some cattle and eight peacocks on it now.
Someday we will build our dream house on the ranch and I'll name the road
to it Easy Street.
Here are some pictures: click on each to see larger size
Nikki & Shasta
when Shasta was 3 months old.
The Jeep on the rocks
at Hollister Hills SRVA in CA
Peacock at the Ranch