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Meet Vernol Battiste

Research Psychologist - Human Factors
NASA Ames Research Center

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"When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have him around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned." Mark Twain

Who I Am
I am working on a project that we hope will revolutionize the current Air Traffic Control System. The project is called the distributed air ground concept project. Our goal in this project is to increase the efficiency'and flexibility of the system by distributing needed information to the system's users (controllers, pilots, airlines, others). Also, with the additional information users can make better decisions. We are designing a system, which takes advantage of the distributed information by allowing the users to make informed requests.

You can learn about the project I am working on at the following websites.
http://human-factors.arc.nasa.gov/ihh/cdti/index.html

My Career Path
After high school I joined the Air Force for 9 years. I spent the first four years as a Jet Engine Mechanic, and the final 5 years as an Air Traffic Controller. After completing my tour of duty in the Air Force, I decided that a career as an Air Traffic was what I wanted, so I passed the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) Air Traffic Control Entrance exam and was sent to Oklahoma City, OK for training. I completed the training program and worked as an FAA controller at Oakland Center.

After 4 years with the FAA as a Controller, I was fired by President Regan after the 1981 National Air Traffic Controller strike, and started a Tennis Court construction business. We sold the business after 2 years, and I went back to school where I met a professor in the Psychology department who introduced me to Human Factors: the study of man and machine integration. This field tries to combine things that a person does best with things that a machines does best. After working for a year in Dr. Klapp's lab I was offered a position at NASA, conducting human factors research.

I have a BA Psychology, California State University, Hayward, California and a MA Research Psychology, San Jose State University.

My curiosity and a burning desire to understand complex systems helped me prepare for this career. My first real experience with complex machines was working on cars with my uncle.

What I like best about my job
One of the things that I like best about my job is that each day I get to work on projects that have great relevance to this country, and to have fun testing the limits of what the next generation Air Traffic Control System can be. The thing I like least about my job is the time spent away from my family while on official travel.

As a Child
I was born and raised in Mobile Alabama, one of the original homes of Mardi Gras. When I was in Mrs. Robinson's third grade elementary class, I remember thinking that I wanted to be a scientist. Sometimes little boys' dreams do come true.

I have many fond memories of my teen and preteen years growing up in Roger Williams Projects. There were many children around my own age in the projects. We had a very large playground area where we played semi-organized sports, and next to the playground were thick wooded areas where we explored and captured small animals. I attended Central High School, an all black high school in Mobile. I was not a very focused student and thus achieved only average grades in high school.

I have two role models: 1) My grandmother, who raised me, and taught me the values that govern my life, 2) Professor Stuart Klapp, who introduced me to Human Factors during my undergraduate studies at California State University, Hayward University. Stuart and I started out as professor and student, and have become good friends.

As a child I did not read any books for pleasure, only schoolbooks. From my perspective, this limited my exploration to locations, and things that only I could imagine. Today I get many ideas and great pleasure from reading, but I still spend a great deal of time reading material for work. I just enjoy it a great deal more.

Advice
Look for opportunities to find what you are truly interested in and pursue those interests. Try and find a career that challenges you and that is fun.

Future Plans
To retire from the government and work part time as a Human Factors Consultant. If I don't retire from NASA, I would like to conduct research and design systems to support navigation and geographical orientation on other planets.

Personal
Today I live in San Jose, CA with my wife and 10-year-old son. We live in the Evergreen district, located in the southeastern foothills which surround the San Francisco Bay. Another member of our family is a female Alaskan Husky, named Makita. She is very playful and very smart, and she loves little children. my hobbies include computers, fishing, restoring old cars (68 GTO, 70 Mustang, 68 Grand Prix) and woodworking.

 
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