The Sky’s The Limit
Tim Hackett, the Phoenixville Area High School 2011 Valedictorian, has been awarded a NASA Space Technology Research Fellowship. A recent graduate from the Penn State School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Hackett is one of only 53 graduate students in the country receiving this prestigious award. The fellowship supports NASA’s goal of creating innovating new space technologies for our nation’s science, exploration and economic future while providing the nation with a pipeline of highly-skilled scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians to improve America’s technological competitiveness.
Hackett’s enthusiasm for engineering was fed and nourished at PAHS through his involvement in the First Robotics Program and the Roboworks team at PAHS. As President of the Club his junior and senior year, the experience helped steer him toward electrical engineering, as he found he had a knack for the creative piece of writing software. Under the direction of Mr. Andy Chiofolo, the team competed at the state level three different years, and was part of the Pennsylvania Winning Alliance. An interesting component of the competition is the emphasis on “gracious professionalism”; it isn’t all about winning, it IS about creating a culture of engineers who can work together collaboratively. Chiofolo is one of several mentors Tim credits with igniting his passion for learning, and says he was a “huge inspiration, not just as a teacher/mentor, but in who he is a person.”
As one might suspect, Hackett took a challenging course load while at PAHS. Advanced Placement classes in Math, Science, and English all prepared him for Penn State’s Shire Honors Program. His experience with Mr. Jay Jennings both in Physics Class as well as the Physics Olympics helped him “think outside of the box, which is important in engineering,” Hackett shared. “The projects we did helped me really learn by doing, which gives you a much better intuitive sense on how things work.”
Hackett is also an avid musician, and played trumpet in every possible music group while at PAHS. He sees his varied interests as very compatible. “There is a strong correlation to science in my approach to music,” he shared. While at Penn State, Tim further developed another more artistic interest in photography, and uses it as a “de-stressor” from the demands of his other work.
For the near future, that work will address the potential loss of a data link or its performance level between a spacecraft and an Earth ground station. The research Hackett and others are doing will be tested onboard the International Space Station, and ultimately will potentially push the state-of-the art performance limits of a space-based communications network. “I’m extremely excited to be collaborating with NASA on the forefront of space technology research,” Hackett said. “I grew up with fighter jets and astronaut posters on my walls. I’ve always loved everything that has to do with air and space. And for me to be working NASA, it’s really a dream come true.”