Live From...the Stratosphere
Paul Keas Biography


Name: Paul Keas

Position: Electrical Engineer

My name is Paul Keas. I Graduated from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo in March of 1994, and came to Ames a month later in April. My hobbies include mountain biking, backpacking, auto restoration, recreational gliding, and drawing. I grew up on a small farm nea r San Luis Obispo, Ca. I am 26 years old, and still single. Right now I share a house in Cupertino with two buddies of mine who are fellow graduates from Cal Poly.

I have worked at NASA Ames Research Center as an electrical engineer for about a year and a half. My area of specialization is control systems. Most of my projects involve figuring out ways to get mechanical systems to perform certain tasks by designing e lectronics that can control the action of that mechanical system. (like a robotic arm in an automated factory). Usually my projects involve just as much mechanical engineering as electrical, and require me to learn about new things (which makes my job mor e fun). The work that I did on the KAO had to do with the control system that holds the telescope steady while the aircraft is in flight. This control system uses a gyroscope to measure the movement of the telescope, and uses this information to hold the telescop e as steady as possible with large 'torque-motors' (large electric motors). In this way, the control system 'stabilizes' the telescope by canceling out the effects of the aircraft vibration, and the wind forces on the telescope during flight. The telescop e stabilization is very important for good image quality during observations. My task was to modify this control system so that it could withstand large 'disturbances' or bumps when the aircraft flies through turbulence. The best thing about being a contr ol systems engineer is that I get exposed to many other engineering disciplines. As a controls engineer, I always have the opportunity to learn about the machine, or process that needs to be controlled, so each project is very unique. Working with people in other disciplines is also very educational, and helps keep me well rounded.

As a kid, I was curious about pretty much everything. I always liked taking things apart to see how they worked. I liked to build models, especially model rockets and airplanes. When I was 12, I started building radio controlled gliders. At 17, I became v ery interested in rebuilding old cars. At Cal Poly, I became very interested in math and physics after taking some introductory courses in applied technology. An Industrial Technology instructor at Cal Poly by the name of Lynn Moshier was a big factor in my becoming interested in electronic control systems. I attended two of his classes in automobile electronics, after which I decided to major in electrical engineering. My prior experience had been working on old cars as a hobby. The fuel systems course I took exposed me to modern electronically controlled fuel injection systems, which were much more sophisticated, and efficient than the old carburetors I had worked on before going to school. The following quarter, I decided to major in electrical engin eering so that I could learn how to design control systems. The first year of engineering math was very difficult, since I had not put much effort in to math during high school. If I had it to do over again, I would have been a more serious student in hig h school to help prepare myself for college. One thing that really paid off well however, was the practical experience I gained through having hobbies that involved planning, building, and practical problem solving by observation and trial and error. My f ather never discouraged my experimentation as a kid (except maybe playing with matches!), even though I ended up destroying quite a few toys.

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