Huntsville boasts a tremendous amount of incredibly talented engineering professionals that contribute daily to the advancement of the nation’s space exploration ambitions.
When speaking on Alabama’s national contributions, be sure to mention the name of Dr. Kimberly Robinson. Her resume truly serves as an inspiration for anyone who aspires to forge a career in aerospace and engineering.
Robinson, who serves as Executive Director and CEO of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, holds a professional career brimmed with extraordinary accomplishments.
A 31-year veteran of NASA, Robinson earned an M.S. and Ph.D. in engineering management and systems engineering from the University of Alabama in Huntsville.
The nation’s chief space exploration agency has awarded Robinson with multiple honors, including an Exceptional Achievement Medal and the Silver Snoopy, which recognizes her achievements in human flight safety and contributions to mission success.
In 1989, Robinson began her career at the Marshall Space Flight Center, where she served in numerous leadership roles. This includes serving as a Propulsion Laboratory project engineer, astronaut trainer, project integration manager for the Ares 1-X test flight, and payload mission manager for Artemis I.
NASA leadership, recognizing the excellence in her work, entrusted her to lead utilization for all Artemis missions for agency HQs and Advanced Exploration Systems.
Leading such a vital organization in the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, which seeks to inspire individuals to pursue careers in space exploration, is rewarding for Robinson in that she has played witness to young professionals living out their dreams.
“It’s just a huge honor. To be in a leadership position of any type at the miraculous U.S. Space & Rocket Center is just humbling. I hear stories every day of how we’ve been able to impact people’s lives,” said Robinson. “To be a small part of that is just incredible. Being CEO is mindboggling. It’s also a responsibility that I take very seriously.”
“I believe that we have to be good stewards of our funds and assets,” she said. “We have an incredible array of artifacts and archival material that we are entrusted to keep. To be given the keys to those kingdoms — it’s a big responsibility.”
Robinson is reminded daily of the vital role the U.S. Space & Rocket Center plays in the development of future leaders in the field.
“We have signs around this campus that reads, ‘Through these doors walks the next generation of future scientists, engineers, astronauts, etc.,'” she said. “And to live up to that expectation and to actually touch people’s lives and develop the type of technical workforce that we need is incredible. It’s a huge responsibility and inspiration.”
Speak to Robinson and you will quickly realize the strong passion she holds for space exploration and how her organization mentors those seeking to make their mark on the industry.
“Our vision here at the Space & Rocket Center is to change lives and change the world through the power and passion of space exploration,” continued Robinson. “We feel very strongly about that around here because it forges innovation and economic prosperity. It stimulates advances in science and technology that help us all here on Earth. It motivates the global workforce and gives us uniting causes where we as nations can work together for the good of humanity.”
“Continuing to pursue space exploration is important to our global advancement as a society.”
According to Robinson, being a woman in field of engineering presents its fair share of challenges. However, Robinson’s career accomplishments serve as an inspiration for young females who desire to enter the profession.
“One of the things I feel strongly about is encouraging young women to consider a technical role in their professional lives,” she said. “We have a very small representation in what are considered to be male-dominated industries — engineering being one of them.”
“Women sometimes feel timid about going into a less traditional role and if I can provide encouragement for them to do that, it is hugely fulfilling and rewarding,” added Robinson. “I don’t want them to be afraid. Women are wonderful multi-taskers and problem solvers every day in life. Bringing that skillset into the technical world is hugely important for us as a country to develop the kind of workforce we need to solve our nation’s problems.”
Robinson’s advice to females considering a career in engineering? “You are just as capable,” she declared.
“Now, will they face challenges? Yes, they will. I’m not going to smooth it over. You will face challenges of what I consider to be societal expectations and beliefs about your technical skills and leadership abilities,” she noted. “But that’s just part of it. You may not have as much mentoring and career development opportunities. The more of us we can get into the workforce, the more we can make that better.”
If anyone understands the prowess of North Alabama’s aerospace industry, it’s Robinson. According to the engineering professional, Huntsville, while already staking its claim as an industry powerhouse, the area is primed for further “astronomical” growth.
“The future is so bright we have to wear shades. I think we are in a second golden age of space exploration — the first being the Apollo program, which was incredible,” she said. “I think we are in a burgeoning market, where the market is going to increase.”
“We have an incredible hub for space exploration here in Huntsville and northern Alabama that’s going to continue to grow,” proclaimed Robinson. “What you find is in these economic areas, when you get a certain industry and it’s really doing well, the growth just becomes exponential. That’s what I think we’ve seen here.”
Under the leadership of Robinson, the U.S. Space & Rocket Center is uniquely positioned to continue fulfilling its mission of developing young professionals that will go on to change the world.
Yellowhammer News is proud to name Dr. Kimberly Robinson a 2022 Woman of Impact.
Dylan Smith is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanSmithAL