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Meet: Anthony C. Bruins

photo of anthony bruins

System Engineer/Integrator
EVA Projects Office
Johnson Space Center

My Journals
Chat and Webcast Archives

Who I am and what I do
I am a System Engineer/Integrator in the Mission Operations Directorate, for NASA. I currently work in the Advanced Projects and Analysis Office developing state-of-the-art technology to support flight controllers in the Mission Control Center (MCC). My job is to generate new ideas, develop new systems, and integrate them to work together to support mission operations. This is not always easy, and takes a lot of creativity, innovation, risking, failing, heart, courage, faith, persistence, perseverance, belief, etc. The "YNOT" in my name is Tony spelled backwards. I got this nickname because I am famous for asking "why not" when I'm told there's something that can't be done or that I can't do. We should always have the curiosity to question things because this is how we learn. I am an innovator, or a professional in the field of "change".

I like to have fun. I enjoy experimenting and trying new things, new challenges. I love to meet and talk with people, especially about their failures and how to learn from these failures whenever possible -- for them and for myself. My favorite conversations are often with elders, as they accelerate my learning process by listening to their experiences, as opposed to opinions or perspectives. I enjoy reading, especially books on philosophy. I usually read four to five books at the same time, though it does take a while to actually finish them. I am constantly challenging myself. One thing that helps me is that I am also honest with myself, and only judge myself, not others. I love to travel, as it gives me different perspectives on how other people live and struggle. This really helps me to appreciate what I have, where I have been and where I am going. I am a meat and potatoes kind of person, and I love pizza, especially the "real stuff" from the east coast. photo of bruins' dog

I love animals. Dogs are especially important to me, and I was taught a unique way of viewing the world the way they do by my best friend Joe Dallas, Jr. As a master dog trainer, I communicate with them on the conscious, subconscious and superconscious levels of their minds and utilize their senses to train and communicate with them. In my opinion, dogs are an example of true unconditional love, no matter how badly they may be treated. There will be over 11 million dogs destroyed this year because of housebreaking, discipline or problem behaviors that could be corrected if the owners knew how to think like them and get on their level. Have you ever noticed that dog is God spelled backwards?

Growing Up

photo of bruins as a child I was born in Alexandria, Louisiana, and lived there for the first five years of my life. Then we moved to Houston. I grew up in Houston's Fifth Ward, which is part of the ghetto. I am not ashamed of this fact, actually I am proud of it. Growing up in the ghetto made me who I am today. This environment gave me the survival skills I needed to confront any situation that life may throw at me. Where I grew up, risking, failing and fear were never part of the equation; only survival. These skills or tools I gained are used in my profession daily. When you are at the bottom, there is nowhere else to go, but up. Growing up, I was determined to prove to myself that I was different and could do things differently. When a minister bought the land our house sat on to build Pleasant Hill Baptist Church, we moved to northeast Houston. Where I grew up influenced me to do better. I was always looking up to the sky, no matter how many times I fell down. I learned to live life one day at a time, though I did have an overall goal.

As a kid, I never really knew what I wanted to be when I was an adult. I did well in school, but athletics is what I excelled in. I played baseball, football, and ran track. I always thought athletics would be my way out of the ghetto, though that isn't what happened. I got hurt in the Astrodome playing football. I tried out for the Cincinnati Reds, but I didn't make it. I was offered a few baseball scholarships, but they weren't with the big name schools I wanted to attend.

I hated to read. I found it boring, unchallenging, and unstimulating mentally. Besides my school books, the only other book I really read was the Bible. The Bible kept me questioning myself and my life because I feared God.

My childhood ended when I was 13 years old. My mom and stepfather divorced, and I began working to help my mom make ends meet. I failed a great deal trying to make adult decisions. Yet, I was not afraid to try because I was curious and knew I would learn something.

In college, I took the basics -- English, history, government -- but, I didn't have the proper foundation for math, so I failed miserably. I was put on probation in college (going full-time), and I was working two jobs to help my mom. Finally, I learned the college system -- networking and study groups. Networking introduced me to study groups where I learned the process of working the problems in math that I was struggling within a team environment. I now learned how others studied and adjusted my study habits. At this point, college became easier, which put me in a better position to succeed as I learned from my failures and others' failures.

My Family
photo of bruins' dog I live in southwest Houston, over by the Astrodome. I have two pit bull dogs, Bruno and Shy-Shy which I trained. Bruno is my guardian companion and was my teacher. He taught me how to think like a dog while I learned how to train them and view the world the way they do. My mom still lives in northeast Houston. My biological father was a school teacher in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. My parents did not get married, and I never met my biological father until I was 21 years old. Because of this, my mother was the most influential person in my life. I got my creativity from my mom, and my intellect from my father. It's important to know that just because one of your parents is not in your life, it's not always a bad thing, though it may seem like it at the time. My father not being around helped to shape me into the man I am today, because I turned it into a positive experience -- more failures I learned from. I have three sisters and two brothers, and they all live in Houston. I'm the oldest and I worked very hard to set a good example for them. My family enjoys going to church together, and going out to eat together. We try to have family gatherings as often as possible.

My Career Path
I graduated from the University of Houston -- Main campus, in August 1984, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering. I got a little work experience on campus working with Dr. Jack V. Matson on an Environmental Protection Agency project, as a freshman. Dr. Matson influenced me quite a bit. He is an inventor, who by the way was also a failure. He learned from his failures to be a success and helped me to expand on this idea concerning myself.

After I graduated, it took me a year to find a job. I never thought I would end up at NASA, as I had no idea the kind of work I was trained for could be used in this capacity. My mom had a friend, Mrs. Gloria Taylor, who had a friend who worked for Northrup. The gentleman from Northrup knew the name and phone number of one of NASA's Personnel Management Specialist, Mr. Robert Jones. Mr. Jones interviewed me over the telephone and in person. After meeting with him, he was impressed with how hard I had worked to get this far and he arranged several interviews for me. When it came time for the interviews, I borrowed a suit from a fraternity brother, laid all my stuff out on the bed and prayed. When I showed up for the interview, the only things in my briefcase were my resume and my Bible. My first interview was for a job I was not skilled for, but the second interview with Mr. Leroy Penn was the one that got me where I am today.

Future Goals
I want to fly as an astronaut in the new advanced space suit I am designing and hope to build. I want to eventually get married. I want to help others and hopefully play a role in making the world a better place. I want to share with people how I learned to create an idea and take it from the beginning concept to development both mentally and visually and then how to go about getting funding for it. I also want to go further with my partner and best friend, Joe Dallas, Jr., in the development and marketing of our unique dog training processes and techniques. I want to continue to evolve -- I am a spiritual being having a human experience.

Personal Insights
One fact I want you to remember about me is that my whole life has been a successful failure. What I mean by that is that with each failure, I learned something that I took with me. I failed quickly and used these experiences to succeed, one step at a time. Learning to fail is as important as learning to succeed, because with each successful goal we reach, we usually have to experience a few failures along the way.

Innovation, or new ideas, is the key to survival in a continuously changing world on a personal and a professional level. You cannot be a slave to fear and slow stupid failure. Failures can be successes if you use them intelligently. This also involves using your creativity. Don't be afraid to try new things or to take risks.

Kids are our future, and anything we can do to inspire them is planting the seeds for future generations. This is why I love the work I do in supporting NASA's outreach program. I am part of NASA's Speaker's Bureau, and I enjoy going around the United States, when requested, talking to kids.

Archived Chats and Webcasts


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