While working towards her undergrad degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Calgary, Natalie got involved with the University’s Solar Car project. Not only did she help to design and build a solar-powered car that competed in the 2005 North American Solar Challenge, Natalie also drove it, making her the only female driver to participate in the race, which ran from Texas to Calgary.

Natalie driving University of Calgary Solar Car. Photo Credit: Jonathan Groeneweg

Natalie driving University of Calgary Solar Car. Photo Credit: Jonathan Groeneweg

Continuing the theme of pairing extracurricular transportation projects with higher learning, Natalie got a VFR private pilot’s license before completing her Master’s degree in Aerospace, Aeronautical and Astronautical/Space Engineering from the University of Toronto. She then interned at NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center and NASA Ames Research Center, where she worked on a mission to Mars. Solar cars… planes… rocket ships, oh my!

Today, Natalie is at MDA working in flight support for the International Space Station, performing systems and operations engineering, specifically robotic workspace analysis for on-orbit satellite servicing. What the what?

In a nutshell, she’s working on the next generation of robotic arms to do work and make repairs to broken satellites in space and we think that is SO INCREDIBLY COOL! Still too sci-fi to grasp? It’s much easier to understand and see how exciting her work really is when Natalie explains it herself.

Next Generation Canadarm Program

“Planning is a routine aspect of most people’s lives – we decide how much travel time is needed to get to work, the type of food we need to fuel us throughout the day, when we are going to exercise etc.

Well robots require planning as well – this is known in the engineering world as workspace analysis. Take for example the Canadarm2 or the Dextre robot on the International Space Station. Before these robots can perform any tasks in space, the motion of the arm and many other details need to be analyzed and practiced using software and 3D models. For example, how far the robotic arm needs to reach or bend to perform various tasks. Think about how your own arm would have to move and bend to put on a sweater!

Engineers and mission planners use computer software to analyze where the robots can move on the Space Station, if the robots can collide with structure when completing a task, or even what camera views that someone on Earth would need to command the robots in space! We play with 3D models to determine the best way for a robot to move to achieve a mission.” Mind blowing, right?

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