All posts by Sock Robot

Jen Scheer

Name: Jen Scheer
Age: 35
Location: Merritt Island, Florida
Occupation: Space Shuttle technician

Jen Scheer has always had her head in the clouds. Growing up in Tallahassee, Florida, she wanted to be an ornithologist , or bird researcher, when she grew up. Her interest in winged things didn’t end there, Jen was always fascinated with airplanes. This passion led to flying lessons with the Florida State University Aviation Club, where she began learning about aircraft maintenance. “When I was flying, I enjoyed being around planes and spent time at the hangar. I wasn’t allowed to do any maintenance then, of course. I was interested in how they worked, but I was an art major at the time. I was very interested in learning how to restore warbirds, specifically those with “nose art,” the neat designs that used to be painted on war planes,” she says. Once she got a taste of repairing planes she was hooked. She hit the books at Lively Aviation School in order to get her Airframe and Powerplant Mechanic’s license. Later she learned about how to fix larger flying objects, namely those in the field of aerospace.

As a Space Shuttle Technician, Jen’s career began out of a different sort of love. Her husband was working at the space center at the time and he urged Jen to apply. These days Jen doesn’t exactly have your typical nine-to-five. “Currently, my job consists of maintenance of shuttle Orbital Maneuvering System Pods, Forward Reaction Control System modules, and associated ground support equipment,” she says. Before your eyes glaze over, Jen explains what that actually means.

“The orbiter is the black and white airplane-like part of the shuttle. A lot of people call it the shuttle, but generally the name shuttle refers to the orbiter plus the solid rocket boosters and orange external tank,” she says. “The Orbital Maneuvering System Pods are called OMS (pronounced like ‘ohms’) Pods for short, and they are the two large bumps you see on the orbiter on either side of the tail. They each contain a large engine and small thrusters that are used to move the orbiter around once it is in space, for things such as docking to the International Space Station, or performing the de-orbit burn that allows the astronauts to return to earth at the end of their mission.

The Forward Reaction Control System known as the FRCS, is a piece of the orbiter that sits just forward of the crew module, almost like it’s across the nose of the orbiter. It also houses thrusters for maneuvering in space. The OMS pods and FRCS have several tanks inside to fuel the engines and thrusters, and a network of tubing and valves, electrical wiring and sensors, and silvery looking ‘blankets’ to control the temperature inside. The OMS pods and FRCS are removed from the orbiter and transported to my work area for processing. We process the pods in one of two ways and ship them back.

One way is to check out the entire pod system including all thrusters, fuel and oxidizer tanks and their related systems, and complete a structural inspection. This is scheduled maintenance, and occurs once every five flights. The second way is called a “drop-in” which happens when there was damage from a mission. The problem is diagnosed and the system is repaired or replaced.  The pod is then shipped back to the Orbiter Processing Facility to be attached to the orbiter.”

Look at that rocket!

Which means that Jen spends her days doing diagnostic tests with a meter, performing a variety of inspections, cleaning the equipment, and occasionally replacing parts that have conked out, like cutting out a valve and welding in a new one. She’s like a very well-informed mechanic, only instead of cars and trucks, she’s working under the hoods of stargazing shuttles that can weigh up to 165,000 pounds when empty.

Although many people make up the space program, Jen admits that there’s a bit of a gender gap. Out of her initial group of twenty-five co-workers, Jen was the only girl, these days she’s one of two women. Though this provides a bit of a challenge, she’s proven herself and feels comfortable among her fellow space cadets.

Jen aspires to lure more men and women into space. “I’m really into space outreach. I think it is very important to get people interested in space exploration so that it will continue,” she says. She’s even launched an online group called the Space Tweep Society. Consisting of a bunch of space enthusiasts, these like-minded cosmos-connoisseurs use Twitter as a medium to promote their passion. “Our ranks include NASA and other space program employees, astronomers, journalists, astrophysicists, scientists, educators, and space geeks,” she says. “Our mission is to promote enthusiasm for all things space and to unite those inside the space industry with those who are on the outside looking in.”

For shooting for the stars and keeping the space shuttles running, we think that Jen Scheer is one very Cool Girl!

Check out the Space Tweep Society Blog at http://spacetweepsociety.org, or just follow Jen on Twitter, @flyingjenny

Talia Fromm

Name: Talia Fromm
Age: 25
Location: New York, New York
Occupation: Physical Education Teacher & Coach/President, Brooklyn Women’s Rugby

As a little girl in Bayside, Queens, Talia Fromm wanted to be a police officer. Her older brother, Daniel, was able to persuade her to pursue a different career path, but even the her mother’s disapproval couldn’t keep her away from the rough-and-tumble game of rugby. As an adult, Talia is a rugby player and team president, heading the Brooklyn Women’s Rugby Team.

At 16, Talia was diagnosed with Juvenile Myoclonic Epilepsy, which plagued her with tiny jerks in her extremities and shoulders. This variety of epilepsy occasionally leads to a seizure, but Talia was lucky enough to only have two seizures prior to being medicated. Fortunately medication has allowed her to manage the symptoms as an adult, but she remembers that the uncontrollable twitches and shakes that she experienced as a teenager in school were scary and humiliating. “The fact that the doctor told me I had to be on medication for the rest of my life didn’t sit very well either,” she remembers. “My mind and body had to get used to it all; going to the hospital regularly, taking medicine twice a day, accepting what was happening, and finding how to balance my love for sports with this new challenge I was facing.” After more than eight years, Talia has proven that Epilepsy has no control over her athletic ability or career.

Handling her Epilepsy has caused Talia to have a different perspective than most people. She cites her biggest influences as athletes who have triumphed in spite of physical disabilities, those who have become active and competitive despite whatever struggles their bodies may endure. “We are all guilty of having lazy days and not wanting to move a muscle, but many of us take advantage of the fact that we are healthy and have a working body to do whatever we would like,” she says. “When I find myself mentally defeated or falling into lazy tendencies, I think about those who aren’t as lucky and don’t get to walk or run whenever they would like. When I see an athlete who has to overcome an obstacle like a physical disability, whether it is temporary or permanent, it pushes me to go harder and not take advantage of what I’ve got.”

Further proof of Talia’s success was her Division I softball career in college. Following graduation, she didn’t want to simply settle into a sedentary lifestyle. Having athletic friends allowed her to be connected to other options, including women’s pro football, which she played for a year. Around the same time, Talia’s friend Emily had started to play for Brooklyn Women’s Rugby. The team was short several players one weekend, and Talia was called upon to help out. It was from that short stint volunteering that Talia became one of the most involved players in the league. “I was hooked,” she says. These days Talia and the team practice two times a week and once every weekend.

The game itself is as rough as you’d imagine, but that isn’t necessarily the most invigorating part of playing. “At first I thought the best experiences on the field would be hitting someone really hard and tackling them to the ground,” Talia says. “As good as it feels to get a great tackle, I’ve come to realize that the most amazing feeling on the rugby pitch [Note: The term pitch in rugby refers to the field] for me is being able to avoid one. When you receive the ball and an opponent is coming straight toward you, the rush you get is indescribable. On top of that, when you are able to give them a stiff arm, avoid the tackle, and run the whole field to score, that’s the ultimate rush.”

All of that pushing and shoving does occasionally have the kind of consequences you’d expect, however. Talia has even experienced the pain of a concussion. “I didn’t think it was that bad at first, but I had to be hospitalized for the remainder of the day until I regained my memory and self-awareness. As frightening as that might sound, it only made me appreciate the sport more. I’m well aware that serious injuries are inherent with rugby, but with proper technique and strategy, a lot of it can — and should — be avoided. I definitely learned that and a lot more in the time that I have been playing and practicing since then.” It’s that kind of courageous and sensible approach that has helped to make her not only a player in the league, but the president of a team.

Women’s rugby has been gaining in popularity, in part because of Talia and other players, coaches, and team leaders like her. Although public opinion may be improving, the same can’t be said about everyone. “To be completely honest, the only person I get flack from is my mother. She didn’t like me playing pro football because of the contact and roughness, so rugby makes her even more concerned and upset.” At least Talia’s mother can rest assured, knowing that her daughter is a capable player, who also lends her mind and body to passing on the legacy of sportsmanship as a P.E. teacher and coach.

After majoring in Sports Management at Townson University in Maryland, Talia spent a year behind a desk in New York, working a corporate gig. The job drained her energy for all the wrong reasons. “I was really unhappy because I was losing touch with my passion for sports and I had to sit behind a desk and in front of a computer all day, every day. It wasn’t for me.” It was then that she was inspired to pursue her graduate degree in Physical Education at Brooklyn College. She researched private schools in the city that were in need of  Phys Ed teachers, and after months of searching and studying, Talia was both enrolled in school and starting her new job as a teacher and coach. Reflecting on how her career path had turned, she says, “I am so lucky and happy with the degree I’m pursuing and the job that I have. The kids make me laugh, and I get to run around and be active all day.”

Every morning she gets up and works out before heading into school. She teaches until mid-afternoon, and then coaches until the evening. After that, she either goes to rugby practice, graduate school, or she shoots hoops competitively for the recreational basketball team that she’s on. Talk about an active schedule!

She’s not stopping there, either. Talia’s love of administration united with athleticism has led her to set her sights on becoming the athletic director of a competitive high-school or college athletics program. “I like the idea of managing everything that encompasses an athletics program to make sure it is in order and growing, all while being able to surround myself in the physical and sporty environment that I love.” Combined with her love of children, and her inquisitive nature that regards everyone as capable of achieving their athletic goals, Talia’s on the fast track to a victorious future.

“The children I teach love that I play rugby. It’s unfamiliar to them, so the fact that they’re learning about a new, exciting, physically tough sport AND that I’m a female playing it is cool,” she says.

If you’re interested in women’s rugby, and happen to be in the New York metro area, here’s a little more information on Brooklyn Women’s Rugby:

As an independent women’s team, they’re trailblazers, as most women’s teams are born from an existing men’s team or club. Brooklyn Women’s Rugby welcomes any women who want to learn or compete on the pitch, all while being a part of an energetic, fun, and dynamic team. A Division II member of the Metropolitan New York Rugby Football Union, Brooklyn Women’s Rugby play have a fall season that starts at the beginning of September and goes until the end of November. The division is made up of six teams, and they play each team once. In the spring there is a season where matches are set up between teams within the division as well as local teams. There are also summer tournaments that they’re a part of.

If you’d rather spectate, all of their home matches are held at the Red Hook Playground in Red Hook, Brooklyn, at the corner of Hicks Street and Bay Street. They practice two days a week: Mondays in Prospect Park at 6:30PM , that practice is held between the baseball diamonds on the right hand side of the path at 9th Street and Prospect Park West.  On Thursdays the team is at the Red Hook Playround at 6:30, and their pitch is in the center of the track, the one with bleachers for all the fans. If you’re thinking of waiting until it warms up, pre-season spring practices start in February at their indoor facility at PS 282 (for more information on the location, visit www.ps282.org.)

For more information on player dues, officers, captains, and a full schedule, visit the team website,  www.brooklynwomensrugby.org.  Any women interested in joining or who would like to contact Talia and her other team members with questions or concerns can email them at brooklywomensrugby@gmail.com.

Erin Shinneman

Name: Erin Mikel Shinneman
Age: 26
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Occupation: Law student

If you want to see someone working to improve the world as a whole, from her friends to society, you can ring up Erin Shinneman. Not only does this law student boast tales of Tanzania, she can also knit you a super-cute hat.

Erin has always looked ahead. In second grade she decided that she wanted to be someone that the third graders read biographies on. Then, she decided she wanted to be anything with a fancy name, like a neonatologist . Born in New Jersey and raised there until she was eleven, she always had street smarts and an understanding that the world was bigger than her tiny neighborhood. Following her parents’ divorce, Erin attended junior high and high school in Washington State, spitting distance from the hip, urban enclave of Seattle. The move and the divorce were tough on her, though to this day she values her relationship with both of her parents, and still has warm feelings for both the soggy Pacific Northwest and Dirty Jerz.

While finishing up her undergraduate degree at NYU, Erin began working on communications projects for non-profit organizations. Working for social change on a large scale made her feel useful, passionate, and like she had found her true calling. Inspired, Erin decided to join Students Partnership Worldwide and live in Africa for a year, where she worked for a development organization doing HIV prevention and health education. She lived in a tiny village off of the main road in the area, where she had running water from a spigot outside of her house on most days, but no electricity. Though she lacked the creature comforts of her home, she still found that the hardest part of the work was battling with the bureaucratic administration in order to be permitted to teach HIV prevention to the young women in the area. She also was able to travel around Tanzania, an experience which she describes as “amazing.” Her Swahili allowed her to converse with the locals, and she had many memorable conversations that a year before would have been impossible. “Meeting people all over the country was by far the best part of my trip,” she adds.

When Erin returned to New York, she worked for a grant-making foundation, and found herself doing communications yet again, along with tedious office work. Although Erin regarded the foundation’s work as powerful and inspiring, she knew it wasn’t for her. She needed a change of approach, and she realized that this would require redefining her career track. “Law school found me, more than me choosing it,” Erin says. After countless long nights of studying for the LSATs, taking them, applying, and finally choosing a school, Erin now finds herself in her second year at Brooklyn Law.

Erin has taken to law school like a proverbial fish to water. “I enjoy the analytical challenge and the finality of it. Law gives you the tools to reach a solution and make changes in areas that need improvement.” These days, she continues to study through the dog days of summer, while also working for a Human Rights organization. “It’s really interesting to be working on some of the same issues I worked on before law school, but now I see them through a legal lens,” she says. She’s also the head of a student group at school, but that doesn’t mean that she’s able to make her daily life predictable. “That’s one of the great things about being in school, there are no “typical” days.” Her friend, and fellow student, Josie Colomar nominated her to be a Cool Girl because of the fact that Erin takes on so much, and keeps a cool head.

On top of law school and saving the world, Erin has four jobs and “no time.” As she puts it, “I’ve found that I need to limit my work load, to make time to knit, read a non-law-school book, see friends, and generally have “quiet time.”‘ Don’t expect her to slow down, though. “I have a hard time turning down good opportunities and projects that I think are exciting.” Considering how she seems to be a magnet for opportunities and excitement, it looks like Erin’s load as a Cool Girl isn’t about to get any lighter!

Kika Sales

Name: Kika Sales

Kika Sales was raised in bucolic Scarsdale, New York and Rome, Italy. Her childhood was filled with exploration, even when under the watchful eye of strict parents. At eighteen she left Rome, allowing her wanderlust to take her to Fordham University in New York. She was unsure of what she would do with her life, though she knew both that she wanted to help people, and that she loved to sing. Attempting to balance her studies and herserenading stage presence was extraordinarily taxing on both Kika’s body and her mind, she found it difficult to apply herself at school when she had been out performing the night before. After the strain became too much to bear, Kika left school and started her own band, opting to indulge in her passion instead of the more traditional scholarly path. Her band performed in New York City, and on the side Kika tended bar in order to make extra money. One day, on a whim, she took a yoga class. “I got hooked and fell in love with it. Not just the physical part of it, but more the philosophy behind it.” The anxiety that had taken hold of her during nursing school, and had plagued her following her departure, lifted. Cured of her nerves, but addicted to yoga, Kika began a different path, taking her new-found practice off of the mat and into the professional realm.

Applying her love of helping people and her desire to heal others to her yoga asana, Kika studied with gurus including the legendary Alan Finger, Leslie Kaminoff, and Paul Grilley. Becoming a yoga instructor united Kika’s playful nature with her comforting core. Today she teaches on Long Island, New York, and her instruction includes a vibrant mix of mediums, including flow-based Vinyasa yoga and the nurturing, supported stretching of Yin yoga. Her pursuit of whole body-and-mind healing has also led Kika to become a practitioner of Reiki,callanetics, and a spiritual healing practice that is often referred to as “soul memory discovery.” Typically her days are filled with at least four sessions of yoga, both as private lessons and group classes, but her life outside of the studio is equally rich and fulfilling.

“I love riding my Ducati,” Kika gushes. Other than her motorcycle, her favorite things to do include playing guitar and hanging out with her cat, Dr. Boo Boo. Every part of Kika’s life informs her practice. “Everything inspires and impacts my yoga,” she says.  Even with all of this, she still has something she wishes for, namely that she’s California dreaming. Her boyfriend, who is a dog whisperer, lives out west. Between her heart being in San Diego, and her family being in Rome, Kika does wish she had more opportunity to travel. “My future goal is to have a family, get back into music, go surfing, and, of course, continue to raise the vibration on the earth plane, and continue healing whoever I can help!” Lofty goals, but if anybody can achieve them it’s this rockstar-turned-yogi, who is one Cool Girl!

If you live in the New York area and would like to take a yoga class with Kika, feel free to email her: francesca777@gmail.com. You can also attend one of her classes at Om Sweet Om http://omsweetomyoga.com/, which is one of the many studios blessed to count Kika among their teachers.