Ms. Bec Conrad
Director of the Fab Lab
Ms. Bec Conrad is the Director of the Fab Lab at NCSSM and provides student instruction and assists with faculty and student engineering projects. Ms. Conrad is originally form Brisbane, Australia. She came to the United States in 2nd grade, then moved to Montana then to Portland, Oregon. Her portfolio of engineering day jobs has included: building robots to neutralize underwater explosives, programming arena-scale animatronic dragons for Dreamworks, and supporting an FDA approved wheelchair that climbs up stairs.
We sat down with Ms. Conrad to talk with her about her interest in engineering, her love for art, and the wonderful work that the Fab Lab is doing.
How did Ms. Conrad first become interested in Engineering?
Ms. Conrad first became interested in engineering in 5th grade when she participated in a course for girls in engineering at Portland State. She LOVED it, and decided then that she wanted to focus on science and math and become a mechanical engineer!
Where did Ms. Conrad attend undergraduate/graduate school and how did she decide what to major in and focus on?
Ms. Conrad got her bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering and Master's degree in Mechanical Engineering focusing on Control Systems at the University of New Hampshire. Another motivation for her interest in Mechanical Engineering was that she watched her dad fix cars and fixed her own '73 VW bug as a teenager. Ms. Conrad was first interested in fluid dynamics but then switched to control systems because she was interested in understanding how equations describe and control things in the physical world.
Ms. Conrad worked for a little while before returning back to school at the Rhode Island School of Design to earn her Master's of Fine Arts in Digital + Media.
What did Ms. Conrad do before coming to NCSSM?
After graduating with her Master's in Mechanical Engineering, Ms. Conrad worked at DEKA as a control systems engineer. She then worked with The Creature Technology Company and Dreamworks in both Australia and U.S. on the "How to Train a Dragon Project", and was responsible for installing, maintaining, and repairing 25 life-sized, animatronic dragons. While in school for her MFA, Ms. Conrad worked with BlueFin Robotics designing underwater robotics. Then before coming to NCSSM, Ms. Conrad worked as a senior technologist at Tellart on building and integrating robotic components into the Toyota, Concept-i vehicle model.
What does Ms. Conrad do after hours?
After hours, Ms. Conrad is a consulting technologist for Tellart LLC, who received the 2016 Cooper Hewitt National Design Award in Interaction Design. She also taught welding, Arduino, and Robotics at Virginia Commonwealth University for two years until Fall 2018.
Why did Ms. Conrad decide to work at a High School?
Ms. Conrad wanted a job that was more stable and less travel than her previous job. She also worked part-time in the FabLab before taking her current job, and felt sad we she left so she was excited to come back and be a part of the opportunities that the students have at NCSSM.
What is Ms. Conrad's favorite thing about NCSSM?
Ms. Conrad loves the 50/50 male-female split at NCSSM and also loves that there are lots of opportunities for girls. She also feels at home at NCSSM and loves that the school has an actual engineering department.
If Ms. Conrad could give NCSSM students one piece of advice, what would it be?
"Don't get too stressed out too early. Begin to work on work-life balance NOW!"