Sperry Rail, SES
Enthusiastic and driven electronics engineer.
Engineering is really an obsession for me, so as well as being an engineer for work, I spend a lot of my free time working on projects at home. Currently I am building a home automation system, using a Raspberry Pi – it controls heating, lighting, but also mains sockets to make sure everything is switched off when I am out (I have a lot of tools), TV (with Netflix and Xbox) and finally an audio system, which I have installed in some of the rooms.
Previously I have built quadcopters, portable phone chargers, lamps, power supplies for work… anything I find interesting.
Another activity that takes a lot of my time is outreach. I had a lot of help from a lot of people over the years, I know just how important it is to help others. I do outreach talks, from 6 year old students to people that are retired! I mentor school groups through projects, such as one I have currently, where they are designing a mini-satellite. I also run my own work experience program at work, I have designed it myself and mentor students in the holiday period, when they are not at school.
Outside of that, I stay active with the Gym, Mountain biking, Golf, Sailing and Snowboarding. All of those activities are with friends, so that serves as a more social side for me.
That all takes up most of my time!
Building satellite payloads to help with the recovery from natural disasters.
Surrey Satellite were born out of a University, thanks to a group of very clever and driven students. As you will all learn very soon, students are excellent at making the most of their money. These students were no different.
Low cost satellites is the name of the game, and at the heart of everything we do here. If you can save some money with a different approach, then we will try it out.
We build satellites that you can hold in your hand, through to satellites you could fit your bedroom inside of. Satellites for Communication, Earth Observation, Weather monitoring, Science experiments and GPS.
We sell to governments and private companies, whilst also providing data to The International Charter, who will use this in the fight against natural disasters, such as floods and fires.
My Typical Day: Design, build, test, test and test of satellite payloads.
The company I work for was born out of Surrey University, so luckily it comes with some perks, such as a casual dress code (you can wear what you want, even flip-flops!) and flexible working hours. This is of course within reason, but you don’t have to work 9-5 in a suit – which really suits me…
The work is varied enough that there is not really ‘a typical day’ – which is great, as it keeps things interesting. Meetings and emails take a portion of nearly everyday, but I try to keep them to a minimum, so that I can spend more time in the lab. I work with optical payloads, and therefore spend a lot of time in a ‘clean room’, which is a strictly controlled room that you have to wear special over-clothes in. The reason we have that is to stop anything getting onto our optics – if you have ever taken a photo with a hair or finger-smudge in the way, you will know how annoying it is, when it gets to space, we cannot clean it!
What I'd do with the money
Without a doubt, Raspberry Pi and Arduinos, enough to take a class and show them how they can make their own hardware and software.
Technology is little more than a box of magic and cobwebs to most people, if you were to grab someone on the street and ask them how an iPhone works inside, they would not have the first clue of where to start. Technology is so complex, and the boxes they are put in, so attractive, people have no incentive to learn what is inside them.
What this doesn’t do, is inspire the next generation of engineers – you can no longer take something apart and tinker with it, technology is now designed to be thrown away when it brakes – not designed to be repaired easily. Repairing technology is usually the ‘gateway drug’ for engineers and we see this disappear with every new release of iPhone.
As a hardware engineer, I would like to encourage students to see the link behind hardware and software. There are now Raspberry Pi’s and Arduino micro controllers, which offer an a way for people to easily write software that interacts with hardware. Getting a light to flash is unbelievably rewarding when you have wired it up and programmed it yourself.
I would invest the money in Rasperry Pi’s to take to schools and teach classes on how to wire up their first LED, detect their first intruder with a PIR sensor and sound an alarm when they have done so.
Finding the money to buy this kit is so hard, this would be an excellent opportunity.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Enthusiastic. Driven. Determined.
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
Built a radiation monitor
Were you ever in trouble at school?
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
Who is your favourite singer or band?
What's your favourite food?
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Tell us a joke.
Why did the skeleton go to the party alone? — He had no body to go with.