January 01, 2001
"I hate math," Ann Devereaux frankly tells students when she describes her activities at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "Who ever said you have to like math to be an engineer? What's interesting are the cool applications you can do that need some math applied to them to make them work."
Devereaux realizes that math is a hurdle for many kids and surprises them when she shares her feelings about math. "But," she explains, "this always leads me to tell them that if they are interested in how to make things, then they will like engineering and realize that math is just a tool to use in making engineering happen."
For someone who says she doesn't like mathematics, Devereaux has done very well in a field where practical application of math theory is essential. This may partly be due to her childhood near the Kennedy Space Center. Her school took field trips to watch shuttle launches, and many of the families in the area were involved with NASA and the space program. Her brother even grew up to be a safety officer at Kennedy.
In high school Devereaux interned at Kennedy and worked on cable splicing. Later, as a college student at MIT, she stood in line for two solid hours to get an interview with a recruiter from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "There is so much variety at JPL and lots of opportunities that I was interested in working here from the start," she remembers.
Now, with eleven years at JPL, Ann Devereaux has been involved in communications, moving from spacecraft communications systems, to involvement with spacecraft radio science and then to the Deep Space Network. She participated in the communications operations on the Mars Observer and is now in technology development.
While working at JPL, Devereaux found time to attend USC to earn a masters degree. She was involved in the flight operations side of engineering, which she describes as "designing and building things that have to sit in the desert for 30 years which must have the ability to stand up to the environment with little maintenance and work properly. By comparison, this is very different from conducting research where you have to think on your feet and come up with concepts for your work. In research you are coming up with an idea and seeing what you can either buy or build to make it so that it works."
One of her most memorable opportunities was being sent to Antarctica to set up a satellite link dish and all the electronics. She explains, "The dish system was used for a live teaching session for students from the bottom of the world. I even got my three minutes of fame when I was interviewed on camera - Live from Antarctica! How many people can say they have done that?"
Devereaux is now working on a personal communications system called the Wireless Augmented Reality Prototype, or WARP, that will be used in the Space Shuttle and International Space Station. This system will allow crew members to communicate with each other and use a headset monitor screen that can be used to view documents.
Devereaux is also involved in creation of a short-range transceiver for Mars orbiter-lander relays and is on a team proposing creation of the technology for a wireless glucose monitor. And just think - someone who says they hate math accomplished all this.