Rhymes with “Snowing”

Halloween: Bill Nye, The Science Guy

For Halloween this year, I was Bill Nye, The Science Guy:

Nikkor @ 25mm || 1/160 || f/25 || ISO200 || flash with snoot || tripod

I was not in possession of bow-tie at the time I took this picture, so the look is a bit incomplete. But I think you can get the jist of the outfit. Total cost of costume: $0.00. Thanks to Charity Braz (for the scientists coat) and Jens Jensen (for the bow-tie, not pictured).

On a side note, I think it was apropos that I went as Bill Nye. We both are engineers, we both work(ed) at Boeing, and we both lived in Seattle. Although, I’m not anywhere near as cool as Bill.


You’re Gonna Want to Read All of This

Today is the beginning of fall semester; my last fall semester. I’m aware that this is monumental moment, however I can’t quite bring myself to really believe that this is it: the beginning of the end of 17+ years worth of education1.

And yet it is.

This past summer has been amazing in many ways. I had some amazing conversations with some amazing people, both in my personal life and at work. I still don’t have the future planned out, but that’s okay.

At the end of my high school graduation speech, I quoted a famous Churchill line, “This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” I think I was about four and a half years too soon on that remark.

This, my friends, really is it. I’m getting ready to write the last chapter in a book I like to call Andrew Ferguson: The First 23 Years.

Thus I think it’s fitting that while I work on closing this chapter and book in my life, I am able to announce the title of my next book – Andrew Ferguson: The Boeing Years.

As my third internship with them was coming to an end, Boeing elected to offer me a job for after graduation.

I accepted.

After some time off to catch a breather, I’ll be returning to my group sometime in the late summer of 2009.

So, stick around. This year is going to be crazy-awesome and as Frank Sinatra sang,
The best is yet to come, and, babe, won’t that be fine,
You think you’ve seen the sun, but you ain’t seen it shine

1 I would actually argue that learning is a lifelong adventure. I hope to never stop being educated. So really, this is the end of my formal education – at least for the time being.


What I Do

Here’s the project I work on. It’s from an article that came out in today’s Defense Daily:

From www.defensedaily.com:

Block 40/45 is a $2.2 billion program, with an average cost of $40 million per aircraft, according to Elavsky.

“It is, for all intents and purposes, a complete overhaul of the mission system,” he explained.

He added that commercial off-the-shelf technology “is providing improved computing to allow for better integration.”

“It’s really revolutionary–we’re finally getting a true open architecture system on board the aircraft,” he said. That open architecture will allow programmers to upgrade hardware and software regularly and establish a network for wide-band communications.

Image Source: Boeing


Alumni Profile: Andrew Ferguson ’04

Over winter break, I had a chance to talk with Michael Fiorito, a faculty member at Seattle Academy (where I went to high school). He asked me to write a “synopsis of [my] scholastic and internship experiences for the alum newsletter.” The profile I wrote was just published in the Summer 2008 edition of After SAAS. The following is the original article I sent to Michael and is slightly different then the version published in After SAAS.

I graduated in June of 2004 and spent the summer having fun (as opposed to working). I started at the Colorado School of Mines in the Fall of 2004 and I’ll be graduating in May of 2009 with a Bachelors of Science in Engineering with a Specialty in Electrical Systems and an Area of Special Interest in Mechanical Systems.

I interned in the IT department at Nordstrom in Downtown Seattle the summer after my freshman year. It was a great experience and a great primer for working in the “real world.” Contrary to popular belief I was not a secretary and did not have to fetch coffee and make copies for the higher ups. My time at Nordstrom was spent helping with the 4th release of the Point-of-Sale system and included everything from helping run tests after the builds were updated (called smoke testing) to creating a database to help coordinate the nationwide training process to creating materials for the training processes.

I went back to school and studied some more. I was also the Chief Engineer for Mines Internet Radio, a new club on campus that was formed to broadcast music and sports games to students, parents, faculty, alumni, et al. We received funding from the school and I spent a large majority of my free time setting up computers, a server, remote broadcast system, website, and all the other things that fell under the per view of the Chief Engineering (which, as it turned out, was a lot). I also applied to, and interviewed with, the CIA; although I did not get in (they rarely accept students who are not juniors or seniors). However, an internship at Boeing ended up finding me. So the summer after my sophomore year, I worked at Boeing at Kent Space Center in Kent, Washington for the Integrated Defense Systems division (side note: the Lunar Rover was built in the building next to where I worked). I was tasked with writing code for a pending upgrade to the United States Air Force AWACS (Airborne Warning And Control System) fleet. In a word, the experience was: phenomenal. I had a fantastic mentor, an excellent boss, working at a fantastic job, doing something exciting.

I went back to school again, studied even harder and decided to come back to work for Boeing again (at the end of the previous summer, they had invited to me to come back again and placed me on Educational Leave of Absence). So I came back to the same group (USAF AWACS upgrade). But software programming wasn’t my thing. I had made this known at the end of last summer and on my last day, I asked what my other options were. I sat in on a meeting with the Mission Computing Hardware group and so I made my home there for this summer. My job this was a lot more interactive. I designed, updated, marked up Interface Control Documents (large drawings and documents that show where cables connect to, what type cable it is and what type of connector is needed). I also was tasked with selecting some of the hardware for the AWACS. Again, I had a great time and learned even more.

I’m now a non-graduating senior (4th year) with the end in sight. I left Mines Internet Radio at the end of last year to pursue other endeavors and I’m currently involved with a team on campus that is working on building a rover for a NASA contest to scoop up 150kg of lunar regolith (moon dirt) in under 30 minutes. I’ll be taking a three week field session this summer (a requirement to graduate from Mines) and then heading back to Boeing where I’ll work with the same group, but a different project which is to be determined.

Other things of note:

  • The summer after my freshman year, I spent a weekend (and then some) participating in a 72 hour film competition. I started out as an assistant and ended up editing the film when the other editor left. We won the Audience Award for our entry “No Witnesses”.
  • I’ve entered several photos over several semesters in our schools art shows.
  • I maintain a blog, https://www.andrewferguson.net, where I write several times a week.

Book Clubs

Most book clubs read things like Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood and perhaps even Lord of the Rings.

At Boeing†, our book club will be reading The Elements of Aircraft Preliminary Design. Unfortunately, it doesn’t start until later in the year, so I won’t be able to join‡.

True story.

† It’s actually through the Ed Wells Partnership which is a SPEEA§/Boeing joint-venture
‡ No, I probably wouldn’t have actually joined. But it’s a fun to think about.
§ Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace


Something Meaningfull to Convey

Things have been quiet here (my website, that is) for a while. I can’t say that nothing exciting is going on, because lots of exciting things are going on. I just haven’t felt compelled to write really. I do have a couple of posts I’m working on regarding my drive from Colorado to Seattle, but those will have to wait for me to finish getting by pictures uploaded.

My brother left for a 9 week trip to Greece. I think he’ll have a great time and experience lots of growth while he’s there.

Work started last Friday. It’s fun and I love the people I work with. I do not, however, enjoying getting up at 5:30am. Unfortunately, this is not something that is likely to change now or in the future.

I also hate $4.29/gal gas; apparently not as bad as in San Francisco, but still ridiculous none-the-less. To that end, I have decided to VanPool to work. It costs $50 a month to be in the VanPool, which is $150/month savings on gas (and doesn’t include whatever fuel it takes to drive the five minutes to the Greenlake Park and Ride).


General Outline for the Next Four Months

I decided not to pursue working in Houston this summer for a variety of reason. Mostly, I don’t think it’s the right time yet and I think I end up having a better hand by staying in Seattle.

In any event, here’s a brief outline of the next four months:

  • May 1st: Last day of Spring 2008 class
  • May 7th: Last final of Spring 2008
  • May 12th: Summer Field Session Begins
  • May 30th: Summer Field Session Ends
  • June 6th: Start Boeing Internship in Seattle (really Kent, though)
  • August 2nd-3rd: NERDS @ the 2008 NASA Centennial Challenge at San Louis Obispo, California
  • August 7th: End Boeing Internship in Seattle (but actually Kent)
  • August 19th: Fall 2008 Classes begin

3rd Space Exploration Conference and Exhibition

The 3rd annual Space Exploration Conference and Exhibition was in Denver this year and we were invited to attend this invitation only event. One might think that invitation only events would be rather dull and highly boring, however I can easily say this was one of the best events I’ve ever been to.

NASA tasked Boeing with getting together the best of the best when it comes to space systems. And that’s what Boeing did.

When was the last time you stood next to America’s first liquid hydrogen fueled rocket engine, a Pratt and Whitney RL-10?

DSC_1868 (by Mr Ferguson)

In fact, Boeing still uses the RL-10 in their Delta IV. And of the three major rocket engines used in America (Boeing’s Delta IV, Lockheed Martin’s Atlas V and NASA’s Space Shuttle Main Engines), all of them are made by Pratt and Whitney.

Lockheed Martin had a robot there, Sprocket D. Rocket. Now originally, I thought it was just a simple AI robot. But then I listened to it talk and interact with other people and I thought it was just a remote controlled robot with a human behind it all. Later, someone told me that people would ask it esoteric questions in foreign languages and it would respond. If this is the case, then it fooled me and successfully passed my Turing test.

DSC_1854 (by Mr Ferguson)

The conference concluded with a panel of persons from all different aspects of the space industry, including a gentleman by the name of Pat Schondel who is the Vice President of Business Development for Boeing NASA Systems, a part of Boeing Integrated Defense Systems. After the panel was over, I went over and talked with him for a few minutes and picked his brain a bit about Boeing, what’s going in the space sector and internship opportunities in the in the space sector at Boeing.

Talking to Mr. Schondel turned out to be one of the highlights of my time since I’ve been trying find out about Boeing’s space interests for some time now, but Seattle really isn’t the place to do that. Mr. Schondel was able to fill in some gaps for me and give me the ever so slighest glimpse of what goes on down in Houston.