STEM Professional of the week

Sandra Ortiz      
U.S. Air Force

For 21 years, Sandra Ortiz has worked diligently for the U.S. Air Force as a mechanical, general and elec¬tronics engineer, providing extraordinary engineering support to some of our nation’s highest priority and critically sensitive weapons systems, including nuclear weapons storage and cryptographic communications security systems. In fact, Sandra was the first Hispanic female engineer ever selected to support the Weap¬ons Storage Vault, a subsystem of the Weapons Storage and Security System in its 34 year history.

Today, she holds the title of electronics engineer for the Cryptologic Systems Division (CSPD) Engineer-ing Branch. On a daily basis, she provides outstanding guidance and counsel to numerous junior engineers, contemporaries and senior managers on systems engineering policy for communication, cryptographic and information assurance systems from development through life cycle. She is considered a Subject Matter Expert for Manufacturing Readiness Assessment, deficiency reporting, quality assurance, risk manage¬ment and Air Force Systems Engineering Assessment model. Her outstanding performance in these roles is directly responsible for CSPD, achieving the very difficult to attain rating of “Excellent” on the 2012 Air Force Materiel Command Unit Compliance Inspection for engineering processes.

Sandra was born in Corpus Christi, TX, the youngest of three sisters, she was raised by her parents, grandparents and an aunt in a three bedroom home. Although her father dropped out of school in the eighth grade to help support his family, he wanted his daughters to be independent and encouraged all three daughters to pursue college degrees. Her love for tinkering with machines grew from watching her father work on the family car. However, it was a high school counselor who would help her connect the dots between her love of tinkering and her love of math and science, to engineering. Sandra began her college education right after high school, however she did not have a traditional road to an engineering degree. A marriage, a beautiful son and later becoming a single parent would delay her completing her education. However, one not to give up on a goal, seventeen years after starting her undergraduate program, she attained her dream of becoming an engineer by receiving a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering.

Sandra is an active participant and leader in K-12 outreach programs, providing youth in San Antonio, Texas, the exposure to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) careers that she did not have growing up. She participates annually in Expanding Your Horizons, an annual engineering workshop for middle school girls as well as Texas Solar Race Car events with el¬ementary school students who are interested in learning about engineering. Being a current graduate student at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) pursuing a Master's in Advanced Manufacturing and Enterprise Engineering, also allows Sandra opportunities to encourage Hispanic engineering students to complete their education as well as serve as a role model for prospective federal service employees.

For all of her outstanding contributions to our Country, and for inspiring the next generations of engineers and scientists, Sandra was honored by Great Minds in STEM with a 2013 Luminary Award.

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