Profiles of Engineers: Steven E. Fredrickson

962 words | 4 page(s)

In the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Johnson Space Center (JSC), there is a division referred to as Software, Robotics and Simulation Division (Dunbar, 2013). Within the Software, Robotics and Simulation division, there is a branch referred as Spacecraft Software Engineering Branch which is headed by Dr. Steven E. Fredrickson, a career computer engineer. Dr. Steven E. Fredrickson is a motivation to any student in computer science and computer engineering aspiring to work and develop software in the prestigious space agency, which is the epitome of latest technologies necessary to conquer the universe. As a computer science student bearing a heavy desire and aspiration to work for NASA in future, Dr. Steven E. Fredrickson stands out as a shining star that motivates and inspires me in every learning day.

Having worked his way up to become the Chief of the Spacecraft Software Engineering Branch, Dr. Steven E. Fredrickson is a perfect example of the common norm that ‘hard work pays’, and inspires the young generation to become industrious and work hard in order to achieve great heights in life. As Dr. Steven E. Fredrickson explains, his motivation in robotics and electrical engineering sprouted from a tour to NASA through the Cooperative Education Program which opened him to neural networks, robotic control systems and software design (Oakes, Leone, & Gunn, 2002). As a current student aspiring to join prestigious companies, I chose Dr. Steven E. Fredrickson, since he is a perfect example of how the involvement of Cooperative Education Program can shape the career of students in their later life. The career growth of Dr. Steven E. Fredrickson encourages student to engage in constructive Cooperative Education Program during their college days in order to build a firm foundation for a competitive career.

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Dr. Steven E. Fredrickson’s Education and Career Path
Dr. Steven E. Fredrickson started his undergraduate education at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, where he went on to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer and Electrical Engineering in 1992 (Oakes, Leone, & Gunn, 2002). During his undergraduate studies, he engaged in extra-curricular activities which equipped him with business skills, a field different from engineering. He also engaged in the Cooperative Education Program which enabled him to gain work-based experience while still pursuing his studies. Dr. Fredrickson then went on to Oxford University in Oxford, England where he acquired a Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Robotics Engineering in 1995 (Oakes, Leone, & Gunn, 2002). After the PhD, Dr. Fredrickson went back to NASA where took on the role of robotics research engineer where he was engaged in broadly focused applied engineering. Dr. Fredrickson was then appointed to manage the Autonomous Extravehicular Robotic Camera project commonly referred to as Mini AERCam project. Dr. Fredrickson has also been the acting chief of the branch of Robotic Systems Technology Branch, Special Project Office’s assistance chief, and Chief of the Intelligent Systems Branch before being appointed to his current role. Dr. Fredrickson attributes his up-to-date expertise to his attendance of various training courses and technical conferences throughout the year.

Most Interesting Project in Dr. Steven E. Fredrickson’s Career
The Mini AERCam project in which was headed and managed by Dr. Fredrickson led to the development of a robotic inspection vehicle employing a camera and can fly freely (Dunbar, 2013). The robotic inspection vehicle would be used to inspect and view the spaceship externally and remotely. The remote operation of the mini AERCam free flyer takes place from a control center that can support activities such as teleoperations, selection and supervision of coded commands, automatic station maintenance, local maneuvers, and docking automatically (Dunbar, 2013). The mini AERCam free flyer has already been tested for spaced based operations in approximate simulations and proved to be a very intelligent, post-modern and state of art invention that will play a critical role in NASA’s deep space explorations (Dunbar, 2013). The mini AERCam project is therefore a very interesting project employing intelligent robotics and computer engineering. This complex and sophisticated project was conducted by a team of experienced engineers which were led by Dr. Fredrickson.

View of the Engineering Profession and Future Career Path
From the study of Dr. Fredrickson education, career and projects in NASA, my belief on the engineering profession has greatly changed. Prior to the analysis of Dr. Fredrickson, I saw the engineering profession as a static profession where the engineer specializes on a specific aspect in which he practices throughout their careers. However, Dr. Fredrickson proves that engineering is a highly dynamic profession that applies to many other fields of study making the engineer’s career to involve many other disciplines than just the initial university qualifications. Dr. Fredrickson was initially trained to be a Computer and Electrical Engineer, however, he went ahead to become a project manager and an executive in the company’s management. This indicates that the prior to the engineering qualifications, engineering students are supposed to engage themselves in much more non-engineering fields such as management and business skills. Also, the participation of engineering students in Cooperative Education Programs or their equivalent during the university years is really important since it plays a crucial role in shaping the future career engagement and success levels. Furthermore, Dr. Fredrickson states that he has to continue attending training and technical conferences throughout to keep up with changing technology so as to maintain a high level of proficiency. This indicates that even with the fundamental engineering knowledge, an engineer is required to keep on training and learning on the dynamic changes seen in all engineering disciplines.

  • Dunbar, B. (2013, June 07). 2012 In-Space Non-Destructive Inspection Technology Workshop Presenter. Retrieved March 09, 2017, from
  • Oakes, W. C., Leone, L. L., & Gunn, C. J. (2002). Engineering your future: An introduction to engineering. Wildwood, MO: Great Lakes Press.

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