Jasper is an electrical engineer with Northrop Grumman in Chandler, Arizona. In her spare time, she makes rocket-themed art and jewelry using the latest 3D printing technologies. Through her art, Jasper shares her passion for space with children and adults, and teaches 3D printing at HeatSync Labs, a maker space, in nearby Mesa.
How long have you been with Northrop Grumman?
I joined Northrop Grumman in 2009, so I’ve been with the company for more than ten years. I was hired after graduating from the University of Idaho with my electrical engineering degree. I was happy to begin my career here, I’ve had the opportunity to work on some cool projects, and of course rockets!
How did you become interested in space?
As far back as I can remember I’ve always been excited about space. I spent a lot of time building and launching model rockets as a young girl. I made my own propellant, too. I blew up stuff all the time – you could get away with anything on a dairy farm, especially back then!
I went into engineering because I’ve always had a knack for electronics and taking things apart to see how they worked and putting them back together. I was fortunate to find a mentor who was an engineer and she was also into pyrotechnics like me, so I decided to become an electrical engineer.
What kinds of things do you do here at Northrop Grumman?
For the past six-and–a-half years, I supported the Antares program, specifically the first stage, which is a liquid stage.
Rumor has it that you made space-themed earrings?
Yes. I love nerdy jewelry, so I began making my own using 3D printing. I created some of the designs from scratch. Some I have made use models released by NASA that are in the public domain. I basically take a design and shrink it down, then inflate it like a balloon animal to make a model. Then, I create a scaffold type structure to support the model in the 3D printer and ensure all the model pieces print correctly. Once the pieces are printed, I break the scaffolding, being careful the model pieces don’t come off with the scaffolding. And then I sand it and get it ready to paint or air brush.
How does Northrop Grumman encourage employees to experiment with 3D printing and other newer technologies?
At the Dulles and Chandler sites, the company provides basic 3D printers, and employees can use these during their spare time to print non-work related models. There are instructions on how to use them. They get a fair amount of use but I have found that practicing during lunch-and-learns goes a long way.
In my free time, I teach 3D printing to kids and adults at HeatSync labs, a nonprofit maker space, and everyone is welcome. The lab uses 3D printers that are either donated or crowd funded by individuals who want to help others learn to make things. I see adults who want to prototype something for their business, Boy Scouts, or parents who want to get their kids interested in science, and teachers who want to use 3D printing technology in their classrooms but don’t know where to start. I also fix 3D printers at HeatSync.
What made you want to get involved with the community through 3D printing?
I absolutely love working with kids. I want to help kids look at things and explore all the possibilities. And I want to help young girls and women realize that engineering is not just a man’s field. When I volunteer, I see an equal number of boys and girls. But as the kids get older, the ratio starts to drift. I see inspired, bold girls, and I want to encourage them to keep going. I want to help others achieve their “ah-ha” moments and know what is possible.
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