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Ask Nate Your Questions

ByTom MillerThe Secret Life of Scientists and EngineersThe Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers

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We got to ask Nate Ball about four billion questions and so naturally we turned to you for more. Here’s how he replied.

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What are you currently working on?

A: Nate Ball

Quite a lot of things, as is usually the case. I’m actively coaching the MIT Pole Vault Club, still doing flips, and am gearing up for Season 3 of Design Squad airing. At Atlas Devices, we’re hard at work expanding the capabilities and enhancing the performance of our main product, the Atlas Power Ascender. Always stronger, lighter, and faster!

Q: Ami

I have a 13 yr old cousin who shows all the potential of being a great engineer when he grows up. His mind is constantly going; he’s creative, passionate about his hobbies and works with his hands. How did you decide which type of engineer you wanted to be and what programs or activities did you participate in to help you get where you are today? Do you have any advice for him?

A: Nate Ball

That’s great, I’m always excited to hear about well-supported kids with a lot of creativity and interest in engineering related activities. I didn’t decide on Mechanical Engineering until I was in college, but once I understood more about what was involved in Mech-e I was very excited about pursuing it. It lined up directly with all the projects I loved to build as a kid, and it sounds like there’s some similarity with your cousin too. Tell him to keep up the good work, and tell the people around him to keep up the good work too! The more supportive an atmosphere he can be in for creating and problem solving, the better.

Some of the programs I participated in as a kid that helped me along the engineering path were 4-H (carpentry and rocketry clubs), Odyssey of the Mind, Saturday Academy, and going to the science museum as much as my parents would take me. There are also a few great websites out there now that educate kids and parents about engineering, including engineeryourlife

Good luck!

Q: Barbara

Hi Nate,
Thank you for the work that you do for humanity.
My passion is spirituality and quantum physics, looking into the soul and what we can create here. How do you do a backflip which seems impossible when you do not study gymnastics.
Also what does it mean when your toes go into you shin?

Thanks again,

A: Nate Ball

Thank you very much, I am glad to get to do what I do. I actually did gymnastics as a kid, and the pole vaulting I competed in from middle school through college has a lot of overlapping skills with gymnastics, so learning to do a wall flip was not too far from things I had done before.

The injury I got from the front flip in that video was a “high ankle sprain,” or syndesmotic sprain, which occurred when I rolled forward off the landing. My body still had so much downward momentum that my feet couldn’t counter the force, and my toe was pushed upward toward my shin to the extent that I sprained my syndesmotic ligament, and had about a 10 week recovery (made successful by the MIT athletic trainers!). More information on that exciting injury is here .

Q: Will McMorris

I grew up in rural NENY and was a votec kid, working on a farm around dangerous equipment. i joined the NAVY Seabee right out of highschool, the best years of my life, when i went to college out of the service, i could not persue engineering because votec kids ‘aren’t’ college bound as per high school guidence counselors. Sorry about my whining.

MY QUESTION/CONCERN: Are our middle school students getting psyched about math and science?? i got involved in Odyssey of the mind and saw it affect on young minds, Do you see any other program and/or ideas for our future leaders.

I am so impressed how you share your success and engage others, DESIGN SQUAD sounds Great, my best wishes for your sharing and support. my God be with you and yours, THANKS for sharing your gifts

A: Nate Ball

Will – you bring up a great point, and it’s sad that your guidance counselors themselves were not as knowledgeable about who would make a good engineer to encourage you at an important time. It’s nearly as important to educate adults who advise students about engineering as it is to inform the students themselves. One of the things I really like about the hands-on educational materials Design Squad has created in conjunction with the show is that they are informative about engineering careers to everyone who reads them -educators and students alike.

I would proudly assert that thanks to dynamic teachers, important hands-on programs, and the volunteers who support them (like you with Odyssey of the Mind, for starters), middle school kids are increasingly getting psyched about math, science, and engineering. Other great programs that engage kids and I think do a great job of building interest and capability in science and engineering are FIRST Robotics, Science Olympiad, and the many student outreach programs run by engineering colleges around the country. Thanks for your efforts, and keep up the great work.