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Nate O

- Research Program Mentor

PhD candidate at Pennsylvania State University (Penn State)


Aerospace Robotics, Autonomous Systems, Control Systems, Guidance, Navigation & Control (GNC)


My primary research interests are in robotic manipulation and vehicular autonomy. I would like to identify and control complex engineering systems by realizing their natural dynamics through data-driven analysis. One particular application area that interests me is robotic manipulation. This has led me to study tensegrity system dynamics in my M.S. thesis at Penn State. I am eager to continue learning and teaching at the cutting edge of technology and hope to extend my work in a direction that inspires others to do the same. As an avid rock and ice climber, I am continually humbled and inspired by movement in the mountains. From these experiences, I aim to identify robotic systems with human-like abilities, primarily to aid us in our exploration efforts. In my spare time, I'm usually tinkering with vehicle hardware and embedded systems. Through (sometimes painful) quarrels with the hardware, I ended up building an autonomous UAV that I hope to continue improving for eventual use in Search & Rescue settings.

Project ideas

Project ideas are meant to help inspire student thinking about their own project. Students are in the driver seat of their research and are free to use any or none of the ideas shared by their mentors.

Aerospace Attitude Control

To maintain stable flight, aerospace vehicles are equipped with an attitude control system that corrects disturbances interacting with the vehicle’s dynamics. Stability is achieved by applying the forces that are necessary to return to a nominal trajectory through the vehicle’s actuators. Aerospace actuators come in many different shapes and sizes, but the fundamental theory behind attitude control is universal to nearly all aerospace vehicles. In this project, we’ll design a rudimentary attitude control system by focusing on the vehicle’s roll dynamics only. Your task is to architect a feedback control system to maintain level ‘flight’ about a quadrotor’s roll axis. We’ll begin by reviewing the equations of motion for a simple quadrotor model. Next, we’ll investigate and implement an industry-standard control method known as PID control. While using MATLAB to simulate and control the vehicle, we’ll discuss real-world hardware such as inertial measurement units (IMUs) and brushless (BLDC) motor controllers. Time-permitting, students will have the opportunity to investigate a new and exciting application of data-driven control (sometimes referred to as machine-learning control) through their quadrotor model. To learn more about the project and the fundamentals of control theory, please visit

Coding skills

MatLab (advanced), LaTeX (proficient), Git (proficient), C/C++ (beginner), Python (beginner)

Languages I know

Spanish (beginner), French (beginner)

Teaching experience

While in my undergrad at Penn State University, I started the AIAA Control System Design Series, mentoring students in aerospace control systems through real-life hardware. The objective of the mini-course was to open students' eyes to the thrill of controlling an engineering system from the ground up. Through this experience, the students learned fundamental concepts from vehicle control theory that are directly applicable to the jobs that they may see in industry. I've also worked for three years as a rock climbing guide for Penn State. In this role, I facilitated team-building exercises to engage participants in the sport of rock climbing and also taught them fundamental anchor systems to be able to climb safely outside.


Work experience

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (2023 - Current)
Visiting Researcher
Control and Analysis of Stochastic Systems (CASS) Lab (2019 - Current)
Research Assistant
Lockheed Martin Space Systems (2019 - 2019)
Engineering Intern
Uniflight Global Inc. (2018 - 2018)
Helicopter Technician


Pennsylvania State University (Penn State)
BSE Bachelor of Science in Engineering (2021)
Aerospace Engineering
Pennsylvania State University (Penn State)
MSE Master of Science in Engineering (2021)
Aerospace Engineering
Pennsylvania State University (Penn State)
PhD Doctor of Philosophy candidate
Aerospace Engineering

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