Nerdy space girl helping design next NASA project
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LAKE GENEVA It's not rocket science -- well actually it is.
That's what scientist and spacecraft engineer Amber Gell told students recently at Badger High School to talk about her work on the Orion Project, NASA's next manned space vehicle.
Gell, a Milwaukee native with degrees from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and the University of Houston-Clear Lake, shared her journey from a nerdy girl to the space program engineer.
Since she was 5 years old, Gell dreamed of creating rockets. While other children doodled randomly in their notebooks, she was drawing rockets and dreaming of becoming an astronaut.
She continues to dream, but now those dreams include space travel in the Orion Spacecraft, NASA's Multipurpose Crew Vehicle, which is the next integral part of the overall vision for space exploration.
Gell is a member of the team that is designing the spacecraft, which will replace the Space Shuttle and be America's Flagship for Space Exploration, according to NASA. She hopes to make the crew to fly in Orion, but her goal right now is to work on the design of the rocket and make it the best it can be.
Currently, Gell works with Lockheed Martin as a spacecraft systems engineer for Orion's Landing and Recovery Systems team.
She has worked on the docking integrator, which will allow Orion to link with the International Space Station, and Altair, the Lunar Lander. She is also responsible for ensuring all risks associated with the Crew & Service Modules of the Orion Spacecraft are discussed, addressed, and reviewed by management.
Gell told the students that she can't believe she gets paid to go to work. She loves her job and never knows what opportunities for travel and experimentation will be coming her way. "It's the most fun job ever," she said. "My time is valuable. I have a limited time on the planet and I'm going to enjoy every minute."
She encouraged students to figure out what they love and turn it into their career, too. One of the coolest parts of her job, she says, is that she actually gets to wear a space suit.
"Create opportunities for yourself with each class you take and each thing you learn," she said. Amber admitted that she's not "smart", but that she didn't allow herself to be held back. Instead, she just tried harder and put in more effort. She describes herself as hardworking.
Gell spends many of her vacations talking to students in Wisconsin noting that no engineer ever came to talk to students when she was in school and wonders if having those role models come to her school would have eased some of the teasing she took for being a nerd.
She laughs because many of the same classmates who teased her now want to be her friends on Facebook.
Her enthusiasm for her career and encouragement for those who dream is contagious. She advised, "Whatever your dream is, dream big."