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I didn't have to look far for this week's arts and culture piece
Here's how it begins:
Nohtal Partansky, 26, is my downstairs neighbor.
He’s also a mechanical engineer at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena. He grew up in South Pasadena. So did he used to look at the stars as a kid?
“No, but I used to build stuff, K’Nex and Legos. [Remote control] cars, airplanes and rockets. One of my first inventions was a magnetic shoe holder,” he said. “I liked being outdoors. But it was never, ‘Look at the trees cause they’re pretty.’ It was, ‘Look at those trees cause they’re like a fractal!’
“When you like to build things, you like to know how things work,” he continued. “Science is just the description of how nature works. I’d watch Bill Nye and ‘The Magic School Bus’ [and it] made sense. I’d look at a tree and see how it made sense.”
At first, he wanted to be a doctor, like his mother. “But at some point I realized I didn’t want to help some guy who’s been smoking for 20 years with his lung cancer. Building was more interesting.”
Partansky’s last three years of high school were spent at Ribet Academy. “You know, that place off the 2 that looks like a prison. I’m half Mexican and half white so I didn’t really fit in with either of those groups.”
At UC Davis, he saw his friends doing machine shop. One of them made a gyro.
“That was cool. So I decided to major in mechanical engineering,” he said.
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