Having Fun at SpaceX- Part1

Andrew Heine '13 graduated with a degree in Engineering with Robotics. Since his graduation in May he was been working as a Ground Software Engineer at SpaceX.  How cool is that?


The two main areas of expertise for Andrew's team lie in software and ground control of the vehicle. The software on the vehicle contains the lowest level of code. It performs automated, tight-looped control of the vehicle. Ground control of the vehicle is involved with the communication between the launch pad, the vehicle, mission control, and ground stations all over the world.  Andrew focuses on real-time ground communication with the vehicle and automated data collection and review.

While at SpaceX, Andrew was able to use a lot of things he learned from Olin, especially when it came to co-worker interactions. At SpaceX, they don't micro-manage. That is where Olin's "can do" attitude kicked in. Andrew was able to use his ability at learning on his own to make the most of his first weeks on the job. Considering he is now in the position to give projects to new employees and interns, he has discovered there is an art to assigning projects. For example,  interns need to be given jobs where they are helping the company move forward, while also working on something relatively basic, compared to other company projects. This way the intern can learn, and if he or she messes up the first time, it would not cause an automatic mission failure.

How did he prepare for a job like this?  Before working for the rocket powerhouse, Andrew spent his first three years at Olin working on the Sailbot team. In his senior year, he was the lead EE on his SCOPE team (working for Army Research Labs).   In this project, his team created a sustainable robot that the army could add sensors to. The robot had to be expandable and needed to be a finished product.

Also while at Olin, Andrew says he learned a new way of life.  Olin exposed him to all types of people and to interesting new ideas and projects. It is a pressure cooker of innovation and learning to balance work and life.  There he found an environment where curiosity was accepted and appreciated.  Brainstorming happened at all times of day and created a builder's mentality.  Olin instilled a sense of confidence and created a place where the flow of ideas was always occurring.   Andrew feels this learning has helped him acclimate well and be a strong contributor to SpaceX.   He can now work with a lot of different types of people and be open to ideas that differ from his own, yet not be afraid to share his thoughts with his team as well.

 Initially, Andrew's plan for the Summer of '13 was to take time off and backpack around Europe. He then was going to work for Microsoft starting this past fall.   However, SpaceX came in and re-arranged the plan. They wanted him to start with them right away.  Andrew believed that there would always be time to go travel around Europe, but he felt that working for SpaceX was an opportunity he couldn't ignore!   Just like that, one week after graduation, Andrew was flying off to LA to work for SpaceX.

Working at Spacex has been challenging.  Andrew works 12 hours a day at his job, isi working on helping to change the way we think of rocket flight, and his having the time of his life.  With a schedule like that, he's been working on melding social aspects of life with this new professional world. 


What was his favorite class at Olin?  "The Stuff of History", he says.  Appropriate, since we have a feeling that's what Andrew will become if he keeps working hard at Spacex.  

Posted in: Alumni Speak, Awesome Employers