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Meet: Kevin Copperfield

a photo of Kevin operating a drill a photo of Kevin operating a sharpener

Intern Machinist

Who I am
I started my internship at NASA Ames Research Center in January. I had just finished by first quarter in Machine Technology at DeAnza Community College in Cupertino, California. My first couple of months I did a lot of observing and doing simple manual machine operations (lathe and mill). My shop is not a production shop. My shop supports the twelve foot pressure wind tunnel. The kinds of tasks we have are repairs or make new parts. Sometimes we are presented with an engineer's need for a bracket for mounting an instrument. John Wallace, our mentor, and supervisor, will come up with a drawing and sometimes we get to have input on the design. We work on unique pieces.

An example of my work is making a bracket for some switches. For this task we used a computer program called Surfcam. The cam part of the name means that it is a Computer Aided Machining program. We make a drawing of a part with the software. Then you send the computerized drawing file to a machine with a controller that translates the geometry represented by the drawing into commands to operate the tool to make the cuts and then commands the drill to make the holes. We have two machines that work with this software. One machine requires the operator to physically place the tool in the machine that is required to do the work. Another machine we have has many tools built on a robot arm and can rotate the arm to use the required tool.

My biggest challenge has been learning how to make the computer and the machine work together. This has also been really fun.

My Career Path
While I was taking the Machine Classes, a student came and spoke to our class to tell us about this Internship and it sounded like a really good opportunity because it compliments what I am doing in school. In fact many times the class material and the work experience have built upon one another and in fact this has really been a good experience.

Because automation is becoming more and more prevalent in the machine industry, I wanted to learn to use automated machines to make myself more marketable. Previously I was helping to run my family business, a hair salon. My wife is still running this business and I am doing a career change.

Why I Like my Job
I learn something new everyday. I like learning stuff and this job is very stimulating.

Advice
I advise kids to start taking things apart and read about mechanical applications. One book I recommend is The Way Things Work. There is a museum here called the Tech Museum, which offers a fun way to learn about technology. I think the main thing is to have fun pursuing your interest.

Future Goals
I would like to become a journeyman machinist and to make unique parts in a Research and Development environment.

Personal
I am married and going to school and working so my hobbies are on hold for now. I like sculpture, old clocks, calligraphy (fancy writing) and am interested in knowing more about physics.

 
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