Day 12 as a NASA JPL intern

Joan Marie
3 min readJun 14, 2021


ehe this was a little late. But that’s good because it meant I was busy. This day was dedicated to working on the script that I was assigned from one of our testbed engineers. When I was assigned this script, the day before. I was very nervous but also excited to take on something very challenging. A high level description of the task was to post process data that was coming from the magnetometer and find the min and max values for each axis. Just typing that out, it sounds freakin awesome, some like real scientific shit. When I first got the task it was a little daunting and so I scheduled a call with the testbed engineer right away to just some iron out some descriptions. If there’s one thing I learned from my software engineering requirements class, always try to get clear requirements from your stakeholders and that’s exactly what I wanted to get from that call.

So the input was a data file.

Output was the data needed displayed on the terminal and a csv file.

The hardest part was converting the hex values to actual readable unsigned integers. I was able to do this through the use of buffers on Python (Thanks to my incredible teacher, Josh). Buffers are a useful way to expose binary data into something actually readable. Yall, when I first saw this file, I was seeing all these random symbols and I panicked for a little bit because I was like uh…..I dont even know how to read this at all so I don’t have any idea where I was going to start. But Josh and I had a peer coding session where I was the main driver and we worked on uncovering these hex files. There was a lot of data in the files but we wanted specific values that came from the 3 axis. So we had to skip to a certain part of the file and then read a specific part of it using

the methods:

.seek() — allows you to basically offset the pointer on a file to point to a specific bit and read on from there

.read()- reads a specific number of bytes on the file

This is exactly what I needed to get the data that I needed from the data file and skip all the other ones.

The rest of the day was spent marinading in the code that I just made and truly just understanding what it was doing and why I accomplished the thing that I did.

Highlight work of this internship is so far is marinade.

In the afternoon, I went to this awesome presentation about the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter led by the chief engineer of the project and the tactical lead, Robotic technologist for the heli. And it was freakin bad ass. I was reminded of the idea as to why JPL is so cool because it starts with a group of people who just want to try something never been done before, breaking this big problem into small steps, and testing and trying different things until it works. That’s exactly what was exhibited in the presentation. Ingenuity achieved the freakin impossible which is essentially bringing a helicopter to the surface of Mars. It’s literally never been done before. Ah it was truly inspiring and it makes me more grateful to be in a place like JPL. ❤ Anyways, I have another blog to write so I must depart. Here’s to another kick ass week!



Joan Marie

Help. I’m trying to become a better coder/engineer