Shenendehowa graduates work behind the scenes on NASA’s Mars Perseverance Rover, the largest most advanced rover NASA has sent to another planet. More info…

Written by on March 9, 2021

After a seven month journey, NASA’s Perseverance Rover successfully touched down on Mars on February 18, 2021. Four Shenendehowa graduates and FIRST Robotics Team 20 alumni interned at the Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) and worked on aspects of the Mars exploration program, including the design and construction of the rover. Of the four: Kevin Carpenter, Bobby Van Ness, Justin Page and Freddy Wang; Freddy was offered a permanent position at the JPL to continue his work on the rover and now holds the title mechatronics engineer. 

Growing up in Ballston Lake, New York, Freddy sparked an interest at a young age in space and science playing with LEGO bricks and reading Star Wars cross section books. He attended Karigon Elementary, Gowana Middle, and Shen High School before earning his bachelor’s degree at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI). His experience on Shen’s FIRST Robotics Team 20 and on RPI’s Rock Raiders team in the NASA Sample Return Challenge landed him the internship at JPL. After graduating from RPI, he returned as a full-time hire, first building and testing actuators for Perseverance and then mechanisms for its sample caching system. Now Freddy is on the operations team for Curiosity, while also doing mechanical systems engineering for Europa Clipper.

“My favorite thing about the work I do is knowing that it benefits humanity in so many different ways,” Freddy said. “From gathering scientific data advancing our understanding of the universe to gaining experience solving unique engineering problems, to sharing awesome pictures from the depths of space, there’s something for everyone.”

Shenendehowa has a long history of groundbreaking robotics work dating back to 1990 when the head of the technology department at that time, Richard Blais, was approached to have Shen students participate in the FIRST Robotics team competition. Technology programs and clubs such as FIRST Robotics help prepare graduates like Kevin, Bobby, Justin and Freddy to gain confidence and skills necessary to pursue their dreams in the field of engineering and beyond. 

Freddy’s advice for current currents interested in a similar career as his: “Make things. Work on personal projects. Join teams and clubs. Show that you can make an idea a reality.”

Learn more about FIRST Team 20 and Freddy Wang’s work with NASA.