Hambuchen talks about work with NASA for Lennox Series


Photo by Sarah Thorne.

Last Wednesday, Trinity hosted Kimberly Hambuchen, a NASA robotics engineer, who gave a presentation as part of the ongoing Lennox Seminar Series, sponsored by the Lennox Foundation.

Hambuchen spoke about her experiences before and during her time at NASA and described some of the projects she has worked on.

One project Hambuchen described in her presentation is a robot called Valkyrie. Hambuchen called this project the most exciting of her career. The robot was designed to perform tasks that could be potentially dangerous for humans, particularly in cases of natural disaster response.

“When they announced that, I was like “˜I wanna do that’,” Hambuchen said. “And when they announced that we were going to do it, I volunteered. I fully believed in that whole mission of disaster-response robots to help mankind.”

Hambuchen also talked about her philosophy on failure.

“One of the most inspiring things she talked about was failure and her response to it,” said Jennifer Henderson, professor and chair of the department of communication. “Instead of being discouraged and giving up when a project she spent months working on failed, she kept going.”

The lecture was the third in a series that corresponds with Henderson’s Women and Technology course. Students in this course have been learning about women in different fields involving science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM. Hambuchen talked about how she got involved in a STEM field somewhat unexpectedly.

“I had to do an independent study to get three more credit hours,” Hambuchen said. “I didn’t even know robotics existed, I just fell into it. I thought, “˜OK, if I can work with NASA in robotics, that’s kind of the ultimate opportunity.'”

Students who attended the lecture discovered that Hambuchen’s career involves some computer technology in which they are interested in and with which they are familiar with.

“I am an engineering major, and I’ve been doing summer research in the area of autonomous robotics,” said sophomore Roland Green. “I thought it was really interesting to see how the software used by something as high up as NASA is an open source and can be used by the general public.”

Hambuchen talked about the relationship between humans and robots. She said that human interaction will probably always be needed, but robots can be helpful in performing tasks that are tedious or dangerous to humans. She showed several videos of robots in action and explained goals and plans for the future.

The next lecture in the Lennox Series will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 13, in the Fiesta Room. Amara Keller “˜12, Patricia Wolf “˜11 and Aly Miller “˜12 will lead a panel about young women programmers.