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MIT student blogger Mollie B. '06

These are the drones you’re looking for by Mollie B. '06

Aerospace engineers: what do they do in their free time?

Hi, I’m Mollie! I used to go here. I was one of the OG bloggers, majored in biology and brain and cognitive sciences, and I graduated in 2006. Since graduation, I’ve been pursuing the slow boat of academic science — I went to another school in Cambridge and got my Ph.D. in Cell and Developmental Biology, and I’ve been working since then as a postdoctoral fellow in developmental neurobiology at Children’s Hospital Boston. I’ve been living in Boston since I blundered onto MIT’s campus fresh out of Columbus, Ohio for the first day of freshman orientation in fall 2002, but I’ll be moving to the west coast in about six weeks to start as an adjunct lecturer at Santa Clara University.

Most of the reason I’m abandoning the east coast — because, to be honest, I love Boston, and I am super-bummed to leave — is that sophomore year at MIT, I met this cute aerospace engineering major, we got married after graduation, and his alarming levels of talent at building tiny airplanes led to him being offered a job at Google. So he’s been in California for the past two years, and I’ve been finishing my postdoc in Boston, and frankly we are pretty tired of this whole long-distance marriage thing. But I’ve had a pretty productive year: I published a paper in Science, one in Neuron, and one in Cell Reports. So I am hitching up my covered wagon and hitting the Oregon Trail. (Is that not how this works? I hear the Donner Pass is great this time of year.)

The cute-aerospace-engineering-major-boyfriend-now-aerospace-engineer-husband has been a frequent character on the blogs for the past decade, so I figured, why stop now? Particularly because you might be wondering what a professional aerospace engineer does in his free time.

Build model airplanes. That’s what.

You might think, wow, doesn’t he do enough of that, like, at work? And the answer is ARE YOU JOKING?

He’s always been a model airplane builder, even back when they were called R/C planes and not drones, but the proliferation of new bits and bobs available in the past few years has enabled him to up his game from building pre-designed kits to designing his own planes and making them exactly the way he imagines them. He’s a bit of a Star Wars nut, and recently, he’s been on a quest to build and fly one of every ship in Wookieepedia.

Step one, obviously, is to use a commercially available toy to make a flying version of the speeder bikes from the Battle of Endor.

After the speeder bikes, he made an imperial shuttle, complete with retracting wings and ominous music.

For his latest build, he branched out into the real world, making a scale model of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and landing it on a mini-barge in the middle of his friend’s (unfortunately green, yes) swimming pool.

I haven’t heard what’s next, but if you’re interested in more details about his builds, check out his Youtube channel, his posts on RCGroups, or the pieces he’s written for Make.

For my part, I’m trying to do all my favorite Boston things one last time before I leave in September. And I’m hoping that when I move to California, I can appropriate some of the closet space currently dedicated to his builds. Some of us want to build Star Wars drones, others of us just want to put away our clothes, you know?