UC engineer designs robots to fix satellites

Andy Barth returned to UC for his doctorate after years working in aerospace industry

The path to higher education looks different for every student. For doctoral student Andrew Barth, the inspiration to pursue a Ph.D. came after 15 years in the aerospace engineering industry. While at the University of Cincinnati, Barth has been involved in several professional conferences and high school and undergraduate outreach programs. Now he is the Graduate Student Engineer of the Month as chosen by the College of Engineering and Applied Science

Why did you choose UC?

Andrew Barth

Andrew Barth returned to the University of Cincinnati for his Ph.D. after working 15 years in the aerospace engineering industry. Photo/Colleen Kelley/UC Creative + Brand.

I graduated from the University of Cincinnati with my bachelor's long ago and had been working as an engineer with Lockheed Martin for many years. I had always wanted to return to get a graduate degree, but the timing never worked out.

I recently moved back to Cincinnati for family reasons, and it was a great chance to reconnect with UC and work toward my Ph.D.

Why did you choose your field of study?

I was an aerospace engineer before I even knew what that was. As a kid I was fascinated with the planets and space shuttles, and the engineering portion of it came from a love of building things and not hating math and science classes in school. I really didn't consider any other career and have no regrets. 

Briefly describe your research work. What problems do you hope to solve?

I work with Dr. Ou Ma in the Intelligent Robotics and Autonomous Systems Laboratory and my field of research is intelligent robotics for space applications. Since the fall of 2018 I have been involved in research for many types of robotic applications including mobile robots, manipulator arms, hopping robots and space robots. Currently, we are working on solutions for inspecting and servicing satellites.

We spend millions to build and launch our satellites but have no way to repair them. We can solve this problem through intelligent, autonomous spacecrafts with dexterous robotic manipulators. I hope to help bring that into reality. 

What are some of the most impactful experiences during your time at UC?

I had a fantastic internship opportunity with the Air Force Research Laboratory with their safe autonomy group. Here, I was able to see firsthand how development of intelligent, autonomous systems must balance capability and performance with explain-ability and safety before it can be considered for use in critical applications. 

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

I'm most proud of my time working with Lockheed Martin on the NASA Orion program. I was with the program from the initial proposal to the first test flight. It's an amazing feeling to see the software you've worked on for years actually be deployed and successfully fly a spacecraft. 

When do you expect to graduate? What are your plans after earning your degree?

I hope to graduate in the Spring of 2024. While I haven't yet decided on the specific position I want to pursue, I'm very interested in working for a research laboratory and teaching is still an option that I'm considering. 

Do you have any other hobbies you'd like to share?

Most of my hobbies revolve around being outdoors. I live outside of the city and have horses which ends up consuming most of my free time. My hobby goals are to travel more often and have more time to relax.

More about Andy Barth: 

Interested in engineering graduate programs?

Learn more about graduate programs at the College of Engineering and Applied Science

Featured Image at top: Andy Barth explains one of the robots in Ma's lab. Photo/Colleen Kelley/UC Creative + Brand

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