Kassidy McLaughlin spent her summer at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center helping to develop systems that will one day allow unmanned aircraft to safely fly within the national airspace system (NAS).
A lifelong resident of Rosamond, McLaughlin graduated from Rosamond High School’s Class of 2014 this spring and was immediately accepted into the NASA intern program at Armstrong. As a member of the IT&E subproject team, McLaughlin was involved with the Integrated Human-in-the-Loop (IHITL) subtask, which involves both simulation and flight-testing.
McLaughlin’s responsibilities and contributions to the IT&E team included assisting researchers in conducting IHITL simulations to evaluate unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) pilot display concepts and their effectiveness.
For an experiment called IHITL test setup 1 (TS1), McLaughlin was initially trained as a secondary backup to the primary Research Ground Control Station (RGCS) operator. According to her mentor, project manager Sam Kim, “She mastered the intricacies of running the RGCS within the first week of testing.”
As a result of her quick learning abilities, McLaughlin was soon promoted to primary backup. She eventually became the primary RGCS operator and trained two project engineers as backups. According to Kim, “[McLaughlin’s] professionalism and attention to detail in test operations during the three weeks of TS1 testing garnered confidence from the HSI [Human Systems Integration] researchers to use her as the primary operator of the RGCS during the TS2 experiment.”
During TS2, the research ground control station grew more complex due to the nature of the experiment and the addition of Smart Eye Pro, a 3D tracking system that follows the pilot’s eye movement with six small cameras positioned around the pilot’s station.
McLaughlin quickly became the authority on Smart Eye Pro and helped train other project engineers in the use of Smart Eye Pro.
“In a tightly staffed project with aggressive schedules, Kassidy was an important asset because she helped relieve the workload of the other RGCS engineers, so that they could focus on future project-related tasks,” said RGCS engineer Victor Loera.
McLaughlin’s quick adaption to real aerospace engineering tasks and taking on additional responsibilities during her 10-week internship was no fluke. She graduated with honors after excelling in academic, athletic and other extra-curricular pursuits during her four years at Rosamond High, including running track and cross-country, organizing numerous events and serving as student body president her senior year.
McLaughlin is now a freshman mechanical engineering major at California State University Long Beach.