Tech savvy and driven, Rebecca’s helping engineer a cleaner world.
Hi Rebecca! What do you do at First Mode?
I’m a Mechanical Engineer out of First Mode Perth.
What are you working on right now?
I’m helping to design and build future parts and potential improvements to the power systems that will end up in our low-emission vehicles.
Why is this important?
Thinking about how we can make better, more powerful, and more robust systems for our future vehicles is important to ensure we’re always making improvements and moving forward (quite literally in the vehicle’s case).
What drew you to First Mode originally?
The projects and the people working on them! Seeing people who could go from launching delicate spaceflight hardware to inventing a hydrogen fuel cell powerplant to replace a diesel engine in a 200-ton haul truck was pretty inspiring.
Additionally, First Mode is very supportive of its young engineers. It’s been very rewarding as a graduate to be given the chance to do hands-on design and really take ownership of your little piece of the project, which can be intimidating at times but the best way to learn.
How did your passion for engineering and tech begin?
I’ve always liked to make things (and tear them apart) to see how they worked. Engineering seemed like a decent choice to continue to make bigger and better things!
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
Usually sudden panic about deadlines. Other days it’s the opportunity to go to work and feel like you might actually be helping make the world a better, less fossil-fuel reliant place, even if it’s only as a small part of a huge effort.
What does your typical day look like?
Checking emails and messages to make sure I’m up to date with what’s happened overnight in Seattle and elsewhere, setting up a to-do list to plan for the day, and perusing the snacks and coffee options (very important). Somewhere in between these activities I’ll likely be updating CAD models, researching existing and emerging technologies, and communicating with vendors.
Did you have a hero or heroine figure growing up?
No specific individual, but I’ve always appreciated all the teachers, mentors and colleagues that have helped me reach the place I am now. Hopefully I can help some other folks on their journey, too!
Do you have a mantra, a motto, or a mission statement?
“Start where you are and do what you can” has always been a good one – especially if you’ve got a large goal or project ahead that seems insurmountable. Taking whatever small and attainable steps now will at least get the ball rolling.
What is great about mechanical engineering?
Mechanical engineering is quite a broad field, even though it seems like you’re just making the box to put the rest of the system in at times. Being able to design something that survives its environment and use case without falling to bits is pretty fulfilling if you like to solve problems. It’s also a great place to learn about other fields, as you’ll forever be talking with the electrical, software, and other engineers around you.
Could you point to a project that you are most proud of?
At university, I was part of a robotics team that travelled both within Australia and overseas to compete in challenges that mimicked Martian and Lunar rover missions on Earth. The experience and learnings from being part of this interdisciplinary student team were invaluable. I am also very proud to have been a part of this team as we won Australia’s first Rover Challenge in Adelaide!
What do you think is the most significant discovery or human endeavor of the last few years?
It’s hard to point to one specific discovery, as there are new ones pretty much each day, but seeing the first images of black holes and their surroundings in 2019 was pretty cool.
Why does it matter that we keep inventing, testing, and creating?
We’ll never know what’s possible if we don’t try. Also, there’s always improvements that can be made to any system – just ask the people who use it day to day!
What are your hobbies and interests outside of work?
Anything that involves making stuff – 3D printing and modelling, cooking and baking, painting, woodwork, etc. Eventually I want to get into pottery, it looks like fun.
Have you learned anything especially great in the last year?
I learned recently that some early computer memory was made from hand-woven ropes and was referred to as LOL memory after the ‘little old ladies’ that made it.