Interview Assessment 1 - Kate Van Dellen


I drove out to Grand Prairie and we met at the Radial Cafe in the Grand Prairie Airport. We sat and talked in the cafe and then she took me on a tour of the air traffic control tower. Then we went to the hanger and I got to tour Mrs. Van Dellen’s airplane.

The interview really helped me understand the educational differences in aeronautical engineering and astronautical engineering. Mrs. Dellen explained that the first three years of engineering will be a combination of both aeronautical and astronautical engineering. The last year you choose between the two areas and focus your studies on one. I also learned that aerospace engineering has a lot of similarities to mechanical engineering and also has a bit of electrical engineering involved. She also said that I should not let distance inhibit my passions. Instead, urging me to make contacts wherever I can and to look into NASA centers for the experience.

I was curious about the steps I could take now to further my interest and experience in the aerospace field. Mrs. Van Dellen confirmed my previous knowledge that having a strong grasp on mathematics and physics concepts as well as the ability to code. She believes that the coding language does not necessarily matter, but being able to think in a coder mindset is essential for success as an engineer. I plan on taking a summer coding class in person at Collin to gain more experience with coding. Physically attending the class will also ensure that it does not become a blow off class.

I absolutely loved going up to the air traffic control tower. Everyone there was very friendly and passionate about working. Going up to the tower helped me understand how everything works together and the importance of communication and good rapport between the air traffic control and pilots. I learned the back up techniques used when radio fails and saw them in use. It was a lot of fun to watch the intricacies of aviation from the inside.

After my conversations with Mrs. Van Dellen, I realized that I would thoroughly enjoy being a flight test engineering. I have always enjoying picking things apart and putting them back together. I plan on narrowing my next interview searches towards flight test engineers to get an inside perspective on the career.

Since Mrs. Van Dellen’s husband works for Bell Helicopter, I may use this connection to gain contacts within Bell because they are one of the most prominent aerospace companies in the DFW area. Her husband communicates with many engineers who play very specific roles that all fall under the umbrella of aerospace. Interacting with all of them would provide me with vital information on different specialities to see what really peaks my interest. Bell has recently re-opened its facility to high school students for tours, so this is a good opportunity for me to look into.

The interview helped me come up with different ideas for potential original works. Mrs. Van Dellen gave me the Society of Women Engineers most recent issue, and this got me to wonder about the gender gap found in aerospace, especially aviation. This lack of female representation could be an interesting tangential original work, since gender equality is also another passion of mine. I could also research different types of complications that inhibit air traffic efficiency and communication. While I was at the air traffic control tower, there was a radio failure. This could also be a very interesting original work to look into.

Overall, this interview was a fantastic one to begin with. I enjoyed talking to Mrs. Van Dellen and all the activities we did. Driving out to Grand Prairie was also fun. Having someone to answer my questions and to pose ones that make me think is essential to gaining knowledge and experience in this field. I plan on having more interviews from professionals in both aeronautical and astronautical backgrounds and companies, so I can have a more complete picture of the career.

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