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Meet: Felix Alberto Soto Toro

photo of felix soto toro

Electrical Designs Engineer
Advanced Systems and Analysis Division
NASA Kennedy Space Center

(en español)

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Who I Am

I am a design engineer for hardware and software automated systems. Many systems found at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) are constantly being reviewed by engineers like myself in order to speed up the time and maintain the maximum safety levels necessary to process the experiments only found at KSC.

What I Do

I review, design, build, test and implement engineering designs used in the Shuttle and Payload Operations Development Laboratories. The main project I am working on is the Advanced Payload Transfer Measurement System (APTMS) which consists of a simplified, robust, centrally operated and portable system that automatically measures the spherical coordinates offset between the trunions and their supports during transfer operations. This system has a lot of potential to become a NASA project with commercial applications.


My Career Journey

Ever since my elementary days in school, I have been thrilled with the technological advancements in the world of electronics. I was amazed by seeing blinking lights and often wondered about the intelligence behind them. Back then, I was already noticing my interest in the world of electronics. The desire and curiosity that I felt inside myself made me believe that I was just not going to accept things as they were shown to me; I needed to somehow understand and make things better. Therefore, I felt the need to have a career in engineering design.

When I was a freshman in high school, I knew that I wanted to study in the United States of America. I narrowed the options down to going to a college that was close to the Kennedy Space Center, since I dreamed of working for NASA. I also wanted it to be close to Puerto Rico so that I would not spend too much time traveling to get there. I needed to be enrolled in a school that would offer the option of obtaining a bachelor of science, master of science, and doctor of philosophy in electrical engineering. It also needed to offer intensive English courses for upcoming students with a weak proficiency in the language. Lastly, it needed to have a baseball team at the intercollegiate level. This narrowed down the search to Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) in Melbourne, Florida.

I started in 1984 and entered the engineering school on a conditional basis. I had to complete the intensive Language Institute program. I was in that program for a full school year. Two years after that, I was already working in the Cooperative Education program between FIT and NASA. I graduated in 1990 with a bachelor of science in electrical engineering. I was hired by NASA one month after graduation. I was assigned to the Design Engineering Networks Communication section.


Influences

I felt inspired by my father who used to tell me "echa pa'lante". This is a phrase in Spanish which means "always work on bettering yourself." I have always tried to work on that and more, since I also care about the well-being of the people around me as well.

When I was only four years old, I had a neighbor (Mr. José I. Fernandez Reyes) whose Christmas gift to me was a miniature Apollo spaceship toy. Ever since then, I have spent time contemplating the sky and its components, especially the moon. I used to take pictures of the television news and presentations about the space program since we did not have a videocassette recorder (VCR) in my house at that time.

I was part of a Boy Scouts of America Troop 168. This was a great experience since it helped my physical , mental and moral caracteristics. The logo "Be Prepared" was always emphasized by our loyal leader Mr. Julio García Correa. I am very grateful that this organization strengthened my sense of independent. This characteristic has allowed me to accomplish many goals that I have set. I am a firm believer that God will help us, but we must initiate and help ourselves.

During my high school years, I had a mathematics instructor (Mr. Alfredo Rodriguez) who sparked my desire to become an engineer. He constantly let me know that I had a special way of solving mathematical problems which he had not seen during his previous years of teaching.


Personal Information

I was given my name after my father Felix Soto Hernandez. My mother is Angela Maria Toro Escalera. I got to be Felix Alberto Soto Toro because in some Hispanic cultures, a newborn's full name is composed of :

  1. the first and middle name (Felix Alberto);

  2. the father's last name (Soto); and

  3. the mother's last name before she got married (Toro).

This scheme is very helpful for identifying individuals in the phone book and tracking family members.

I spent the first 17 years of my life in "El Barrio Amelia", this is a suburbanization in the city of Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. There, I studied at the Luis Munoz Rivera Elementary School. After that, I transferred to Colegio San Vicente Ferrer Middle School. Subsequently, I finished my high school years at Colegio Madre Cabrini High School.

I was a member of the Boy Scouts of America Troop 168 for several years. I have an older sister, Angela Julia, and a younger brother, Catalino. I am the only member of my family who does not live in Puerto Rico. My favorite sports are baseball and boxing. I have practiced both but not at the professional level. I also enjoy working out and playing pool.

School, School and More School

I do not know from whom I inherited my striving ambition to be a "professional" academic student, but somehow, I have become obsessed with studying and finding out why things happen. I must mention that not everything I have studied in school have I applied in life or at work already. You must know you will learn at work too; it is called "on-the-job-training."

If you can not wait to get out of school because you think you will just have to worry about going to an office and not ever see or care about learning or even being graded anymore for the rest of your life, then you have not been properly advised. This does not mean that you have to obtain a doctorate degree on your subject of preference, but it is definitely desirable by your employer, the society, and hopefully yourself.

I obtained a bachelor of science in electrical engineering from the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, Florida in 1990 after arriving in 1984 fresh out of my high school from the Colegio Madre Cabrini in Caparra Heights, Puerto Rico.

Two years later, I completed a master of science in engineering management from Florida Tech, formally known as the Florida Institute of Technology. These specialized studies helped me evaluate the engineering work being done in the projects that I was working on at the time, from a managerial point of view.

In August 1997, I completed another Master in Science degree. This time, I chose to specialize in the Communications Field of Electrical Engineering, which at the same time will provide better credentials towards my desired goal of becoming a NASA astronaut.

Other Cultures

The NASA workforce consists of individuals with backgrounds that represent the population diversity in the United States of America. This means that people from different cultures will have various points of view, and multiple design requirements could be reviewed and solicited to better design systems that could be used by the general public, if necessary.


Likes About Career

I enjoy the opportunity to network and learn from the rest of the experts that have dedicated their lives to the exploration and realization of a space program. We are constantly dealing with projects that nobody has ever worked on or imagined before. I believe that there is no better reward for a space program employee than to see a system that is in operation because of something that he or she did or suggested. Being a NASA employee means that you have the opportunity to accomplish both your short-term and long-term career and personal goals.


Dislikes About Career

I consider time to be one of the greatest values and resources that I consume daily. Because time is very important to me, I think that I spend too much time on the road to get to work. I wish it did not take me about an hour to get to the Kennedy Space Center from home. It would be ideal if on a Saturday, I could just ride my bike to work and do some project design testing.

I chose to build my house in the city of Orlando because of the numerous activities that occur in this "Magic City" throughout the entire week. One of the most important reasons is because of its Hispanic population; it almost feels like being at home, Puerto Rico.


My Future Plans and Goals

I think that every person should have a short-term goal as well as a long-term goal and that once they are accomplished, a newer one and more demanding one should be generated.

Work-wise, my ambition is to have my electronic 3D measuring system in operation at various facilities at the Kennedy Space Center. This accomplishment should trigger the commercial sector to want to use it as well. Once this is successfully implemented, I will focus my design skill for other ideas that I have been wanting to implement. Hopefully, they be exposed to Spaceport USA and other tourist attractions. I have a passion to work in space.

Academic-wise, I would like to obtain a doctor of philosophy degree in electrical engineering, with specialization in communication systems. I hope that one day, I could transfer all this knowledge gained to students from the University of Puerto Rico and help my country in the development of communication systems.


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