Amber Bishop may still be an undergraduate, but she is already working on building up the next generation of aerospace engineers. The CU Boulder aerospace senior is focused on bringing more high school students into the field and helping current college students excel.
“It’s important young kids know it’s not weird to be an engineer,” Bishop says. “I want to inspire people to pursue STEM degrees because the things you get to do are really cool.”
Bishop’s efforts have brought her back to her old high school in California, where she is meeting with students to share the passion she has for aerospace and what it can mean as a career.
“When I was in high school, a college student spoke in one of my classes about engineering and I wanted to basically return the favor,” she says.
Bishop’s efforts, however, go far beyond merely paying forward that high school experience. Her work on an autonomous robotics project with the Colorado Space Grant Consortium went particularly well, and led its director, Chris Koehler, to invite her to a college sounding rocket payload workshop in Virginia as an advisor, where she assisted student teams from across the country. He then hired her as an official assistant for the ASEN 1400 - Gateway to Space class.
“I did it for three semesters. I got to talk with students about aerospace, help them through problems, give advice. I only stopped because I’ve gotten so busy with my other courses,” she says.
Of late, her time has been filled primarily with Senior Design. Bishop’s team is at work on a NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory sponsored project to create a ground rover that carries a separate flying drone that can be used in areas facing forest fires. As the team’s electrical lead, she quickly learned a maxim of design:
"Every aerospace project is about weight. Even if it’s not going to space. With any change in our plans, we’re looking at how heavy it is,” she says.
The Next Step
Nearing the halfway point of her senior year, Bishop is facing the inevitable question of what’s next after graduation. She has decided to complete the Smead Aerospace BS/MS program in Bioastronautics, which will further her education and also provide an extra year to mull options.
One option under serious consideration would offer her the chance to continue giving back, not just to engineering, but to America – enlisting in the Air National Guard.
“You get to fly jets and defend the country, which are both awesome and rewarding,” Bishop says.
She is already taking pilot’s lessons, admittedly on much slower-moving planes, but there’s one thing about military jets Bishop is already sure of: she won’t lose her lunch during extreme flight maneuvers.
“My Dad is an avionics technician and his boss took me up in a Marchetti S.211. It’s a military trainer plane,” Bishop says. “He did some aerobatics, and told me later he wasn’t sure how I was doing because I was really quiet, but I loved it and was just soaking it all in.”