About Carolyn


Human Factors Psychology

**Hometown:** Spring Hill, Florida
**Why I Chose Embry-Riddle:** It is the best aviation school in THE WORLD! Also, it allowed me the opportunity to work closely with professors, start research early, and get involved with a lot of campus activities. I had my first conference presentation when I was 19, so the research opportunities make you look good for college.
**Internship:** Office of Naval Research
**Activities:** President of Human Factors and Ergonomics Society student chapter, Vice-president Human Performance in Extreme Environments club, involved with First Generation Club and play with the Orlando Concert Band.

Fun at Work

I did not want to go to work this week. I was having so much fun this weekend. I had kayaked across the San Diego Bay (and by across I mean about 30 feet). It goes right alongside the airport so I was secretly being a Riddle geek staring at planes when I should have been paddling. It’s ok I only got yelled at twice. I had gone with my roommate Laura, her brother, and a friend. Afterwards, we were so hungry we went to a restaurant downtown and I had a giant burrito, even though I really wanted the chicken and waffles. That night, as I was still eating the burrito, I watched some reruns of The Nanny. Don’t make fun of me, you all love that show you just don’t know it yet. And Fran Drescher has the voice of an angel.

I don't even have a paddle in my hand. What a surprise!

I want it I want it!!

Not paying attention

On Monday I went to lunch with a co-worker who gave me a lot of information on the benefits of working for the government. He talked about how being an employee at our company funded the education for his higher-level degrees. This was good to hear in the hopes that this company invites me back for another internship or possibly a job. I also applied for graduation this past week! Since I got an internship, I get 6 credits knocked off of my requirement to graduate. That means I will be graduating an entire semester early! Guess I’ll have to start practicing walking across a stage. No I won’t actually do that, if people saw me they would recommend me to a psychiatrist.

For my current projects here, I have been tasked with some pretty unique projects. I have been researching control interfaces for operating unmanned vehicles. I was also tasked with creating a set of classes and workshops for human factors instruction. These will be courses given to people working for Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) on how to make designs user-friendly and how to do user/usability testing. I used a lot of material from those expensive books I bought for my classes. So, they may come in handy for at least one other short period of your life.

Later in the week, I was tasked with doing research with the employees at SPAWAR who are completely blind. I asked them to do a “think-out-loud protocol” while they used a screen reader to navigate through a website. Human Factors researchers use this method to “see” what is going on inside the head of a participant (without opening it up). We ask a participant to say what they are doing, thinking, or feeling while they perform a task. For this particular study the participants were using software called a screen reader that reads everything shown on a webpage to them as they navigate through it. Imagine navigating through a website with a blindfold over your eyes based on how someone is describing it to you. That’s what the participants were doing as we tested. And they did awesome because they use that program for every task they do for their job. I finished that day feeling like a lazy employee compared to these guys.

Within SPAWAR, my division decided to promote the awesome people that work here. So they decided to get the branches from our division and film a couple of clips of the people in each branch dancing to the song “Happy” by Pharrell. My boss brought in embarrassing clothes and accessories and laid it all across the table. Since I am about 3 weeks old here, still very timid, and trying to make a good impression, I did the only logical thing I could think of for that situation. I picked up a princess tiara and pink sunglasses out of the pile of accessories put them on the 50 year old guy standing next to me, and somehow convinced him to let me be the leading man in a swing dance. We danced better than everyone else, except I was too short to spin him around.

On the subject of dance, I also signed up for some classes. A few weeks ago I signed up to do a beginner’s adult ballet class. I remember enjoying it as a kid, but I got pushed up to an advanced class too early and did not understand any of the French these crazy teachers were speaking. I could remember looking at the other girls’ feet on the night of the recital. So, I decided to have another go at it in the hopes that my chicken arms get some tone. In reality chickens probably have much more upper body strength than me. Anyways, I did my first class and surprisingly remembered a few words and positions. There were a few girls around my age, but most of the women were older.

As part of giving interns out-of-work learning experience, every Thursday SPAWAR hosts a technical seminar in a variety of areas. This week was advanced photonics and the potential uses for this area of study. Another speaker brought in Google Glasses and showed some of the cool functions of it. As part of the Human Factors GEARS Lab, I was the only student in this group who had even seen Google Glass in person. In case you were wondering, yes, I felt special. The same speaker talked about some cool apps available that can turn a sheet of paper into a 3-D image, or overlay a digital image to a 6-sided block. If you have a smart phone, download Elements 4D by DAQRI or Enchantium. They both are cool augmented reality apps for your phone!

On Friday night I learned how to play poker. I had played Texas Hold ‘Em before, but forgot everything I learned. My roommate, Sharelle invited me to her friends house where there were two very large tables set up. I actually received tremendous help from the gentlemen at my table. Two of them would look at my cards and tell me what to bet, when to stay in, and when to give the other guy dirty looks. I bought in for $10, and walked out of that joint with a whopping $7 more. Don’t act like you’re not impressed. Not bad for a first-time-in-a-really-long-time-er. At that point I had decided that there is no way I will make more than $7 and decided to cash out and go to another friend’s house. Once we got there, we busted out the Wii and played Mario Kart. Sleepy and delusional I crashed into every wall in the game and came in 7th place at best. My gaming ability was really top-notch that day.

Rolling in the chips

Three Day Week

Two weeks into my internship and I have learned so much about what I will be doing in my career one day. Being able to apply the methods I’ve learned in class to real-world applications is like a sigh of relief. I have paid A LOT for my education, and it is finally paying me back. It’s comforting to know my education will allow me to not only support myself, but to support the things I have wanted to check off my bucketlist.

This week was only three days long! It started off with Memorial Day. I celebrated it by going to this area called Cabrillo National Monument with my roommate Laura, her friend, and her brother Robert. We took a bus down past my workplace and down to a monument surrounded by the gravestones of fallen soldiers. The area surrounding the monument is called Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery and had over 100,000 graves lined along the rolling hills that protrude San Diego bay and the Pacific. They had a service celebrating the lives of those who died in service. I was particularly comforted when the address was given by someone close to home. Major General Steven Busby was introduced as an alumni of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. I was very proud to share the same alma mater with  the distinguished guest speaker who stood before this crowd of thousands of people. Embry-Riddle students are going places!

Some of the gravestones



Met up with some French Horn band geeks like myself. They performed at the ceremony.

Steven Busby

After the service, we all walked amongst the gravestones. The three people I had joined that day had either served or were still enlisted. I used the holiday to ask them about the many great experiences they had in the military, a lot of it applying to what I do my research in. We went out to a great restaurant near the beach and talked about plans for the three day weekend coming up. It was a relaxing day to start my three-day work week.

Myself, Laura, and her friend after lunch.

Tuesday morning I was in charge of creating a questionnaire to send out to employees at SPAWAR. The employees will be using a new online system and I was tasked with asking them what functions are most important in their line of work. I was also using that same system to test with people who are visually impaired. There are people employed by SPAWAR who are completely/partially blind, and this company strives to comply with ADA standards. Everyone here is seen as equal and should be allowed the same employment opportunities. My boss is tasked with ensuring they are being treated equally. I was very proud to work on a project that is intended to help those with a disability.

Aside from work tasks, I am also working on a project with a team at Embry-Riddle. We are working on changing the voting system so as to make it less of a “burden” and more of an enjoyable experience. For this system, it is pertinent that everyone eligible to vote can do it and can do it easily. In this project, I was able to use what I learned at work with the project I’m doing for school. Ensuring the visually impaired are considered in the design of our new voting system will keep us a step above the other competitors in this project.

Although it was a short week, it was certainly a busy one. Because my employer abides by the rotating work week, every other Friday is taken off. So, on my “empty” work day I woke up to the smell of bacon and pancakes. That’s right my roommates are awesome. Sharelle, who’s room is just above mine had made breakfast for Laura and I. I stumbled upstairs in a sleepy stupor to find pancakes covered in bananas, strawberries, and drenched in syrup. Sharelle had made me a plate of pancakes, eggs, and bacon. I don’t think I will ever wake up happier in my life. I never want to move back, I never want another roommate, I just want to stay here forever!


As if that weren’t enough free food for the day, Laura’s brother Robert invited us over for a barbecue that night. So I made a bowl of macaroni salad and was welcomed there with ribs and delicious sides. I have never been this spoiled in my life. I slept like a fat baby that night. Getting up on Saturday morning was an overwhelming struggle. But I woke up so that I could join a co-worker in an area called Balboa Park. There was an introductory class on archery that I just had to join. And I didn’t do half bad. After a half hour of practice, there was a competition to get the arrow closer and closer to the target. You had to keep all of your arrows within a certain ring around the target, and I made it to the 7th round! I dropped out when we had to make it in the third surrounding ring. To celebrate we all got balloons, pinned them to the target and had to pop them. I made it on the first try! It looks like I’m going to the hunger games. Afterwards, we walked around the park area. There were so many different museums, gardens, art galleries, restaurants, and performance halls. It was a great side of San Diego I hope to explore in the future.

Hunting for Dinner

Outside the Air and Space Museum in Balboa Park

Some pretty views

Keep coming back!

First Week on the Job

Hello Again! I have officially started my internship as of last Monday. Fortunately, I was already surrounded by people that work at the same place before I even started. My roommate, Sharelle, is an employee at the Space and Naval Systems Center (SPAWAR), where I will be interning for the next four months. Since I flew out to San Diego, I was without a car and she was kind enough to drive me to orientation on the first day. She even offered to give me a ride everyday, but I’ve had different plans in mind.

Could you imagine working on that?


It's a rough ride, but it's got great views!

I found an apartment only 4 miles away from work. So on my second day in San Diego, I went to a local bike shop and bought a replacement for my Corolla. This week I have been biking back and forth between work and home, 4 miles each way. After 8 miles each day, I will not need to worry about working out, paying for gas, or finding a parking spot. There’s only one problem. I work on a CLIFF! And that is no joke. The start of my ride in the morning is at about 50 feet, and after pushing my bike… err, I mean riding my bike up daunting hills I end up at work, 400 feet above the water. Although, I can’t complain about my view. I have to force myself to do work with the entire skyline of downtown, the bay filled with sails and hulls, the approaching ocean, and stunning mountains in my window.

One of the views out of my office window. Pacific ocean side.



One of the big hills on my ride. Look how far I've come!

Now look how far I have to go! Pushing your bike.. I mean riding your bike up this is tough work.

I was very nervous going in my first day. I started at the carding office where I got my picture taken for badges; on the positive side, I resemble Gary Busey at his current age in my photo. On a military base, you need certain forms of identification if you want to even get past the gate. Although my cards were not ready, I found another intern in the office with the same problem. It was the first day for both of us, so once we got the cards to get us through the gate we walked through the area we would be working. After a few hours orientation had started and we were briefed on the normal first-day precautions. “Don’t lend people your badge. Don’t talk about your work to friends. Don’t stare into the high frequency lasers.”

After orientation, I had my first taste of San Diego-Mexican food. Which is the best you’ll find in America. I was too excited to see my actual workplace to think about tacos, though. For my first few days, my boss was out of town. My temporary, 3-day bosses were Dan and Michael. Dan being an experienced human factors specialist, taught me some cool testing techniques I had not yet learned in my classes. With his retirement being only 2 weeks away, I tried to absorb as much of his knowledge and wisdom as possible before saying so-long. Michael is a younger employee, and more of a network security professional than a user-centered designer. The branch I work for recognized his specialty and took him in as soon as they could. I noticed that there was a variety of people with diverse backgrounds in our “User-Centered Design” branch. Anyone from computer engineers, software engineers, human factors specialists, network security professionals, or even those with a general psychology background. This made me feel better about finding a career one day.

That afternoon I walked home and managed to find my way with the help of my iPhone. By the time I got home I just wanted to eat and sleep until the next day. Therefore, I ignored all responsibilities and did just that. The next day consisted of many meetings. The first was a division meeting, so the room was filled with higher-ups and representatives from each branch. I got the chance to see the leaders of different branches and departments nervous to present, just like a college student in a speech class. So, I laughed quietly to myself at their expense (if you haven’t found out by now, I have a cynical sense of humor).

Throughout the week, I went to many different meetings exploring what the people in my branch were working on. Since this is government work and I have a secret clearance, I will not be able to write in detail about what I learned. I can give a few general ideas about the awesome work these people are doing, though. They are working on anything from designing a controller for remote operators of unmanned vehicles to designing displays for military ground and water-based vehicles. I was so surprised at how much these experienced professionals were doing the same type of work I have been learning in my classes. Upon starting the job, I thought everything would be different. Although they have different theories and work domains, a lot of the techniques remain the same.

On Friday, I was worn out from excitement overload. There is a lot to learn here and I am just getting started. I am thankful for the degree program I decided to major in. There are so many places and so many projects with open doors for human factors input.

Never get tired of this view


Arriving in San Diego

Flying into downtown San Diego

Flying into downtown San Diego

I can remember my first day of school. My mother dressed me in a big, puffy skirt and styled my hair in the same trend as Pebbles Flintstone to make a good impression. After my parents took my picture, they left me with 25 other screaming, hyperactive children. I was a little alarmed and nervous being on my own for the first time. Back then, my biggest concern would have been: Who will feed me? What if I get sleepy and need to take a nap? What if I get in trouble for stealing Timmy’s lunch?

Well, 15 years later, I can honestly say I had the same fears in getting ready for my internship. Okay, okay, maybe the “stealing Timmy’s lunch” thing was a little silly. I don’t know anyone named Timmy, and besides I think Michael has been the one mad at me for stealing his lunch at work lately. I was still scared. Worried I wouldn’t be able to take care of myself, or wouldn’t be able to get to work, or scared my apartment wouldn’t be ready and I’d be living in a van down by the river with my newfound homeless friends. Not only was this not the case, but everything turned out better than I could have hoped for.

About 2 months ago, I found out I was accepted to the Office of Naval Research’s Naval Research Enterprise Internship Program under the American Society for Engineering Education. 3 HUGE names! I was hired for ten weeks in the summer as a human factors engineer/user-centered designer. A few weeks later I was asked if I would be interested in extending my internship. Do I want to stay in sunny San Diego a few extra weeks and make even more money? Is that even a real question? Well, it must be rhetorical because there really is only one answer to that.

My apartment very close to the end of the San Diego International runway. Riddle kids contain yourselves!

I got on the plane in Orlando at 11 am, flew to Dallas Fort-Worth, and arrived in San Diego at 6 pm. Seeing the glowing city with Naval battleships soaking in the bay as we came in for landing got me even more excited about the next few months of my life. As soon as I picked up my bags at the claim, I walked out into the summer heat and got a taxi. It was a 5-minute drive to my new apartment. The driver couldn’t find the apartment number, so I walked partly to the condo (and tipped him very low). Along the way, I found my landlord who met with me that night to give me my key for the next four months and to introduce me to my two roommates, Sharelle (25) and Laura (31). After the landlord left, Sharelle took me to Trader Joes, a small grocery store close by. We then got pizza at a restaurant in the same building. All the stores and restaurants were a 5-minute walk up the street surrounded by Spanish-style buildings and villas. We ate our food and brought our groceries back to the apartment. I finally got a chance to unpack and get settled in my room. The location is actually a 3-story condo owned by our landlord. It was brand new and very clean. I had a queen-size bed with new sheets waiting there for me. My room is the only one on the first floor. Growing up around 3 sisters and a brother, I wasn’t used to having so much privacy.

I woke up the next few days feeling as if I was on vacation. Since I was a week early, I had time to sleep in and visit the popular areas around San Diego. The first full day there, I walked around the city getting anything I needed to feel comfortable in my new apartment. The next day I went to the park, bathed in the radiant sun, and ended the relaxing day at a market on the beach. My roommates called it the hippie market, because it was run by, well, you know… “free-spirits.” Walking down the street I saw foods from almost every continent. There was hand-made jewelry, fresh, exotic fruits, and anything from bright scarves to leather halter-tops. The market ended at a band playing on the beach. This was my first time seeing the Pacific. I felt so small standing next to it, especially with the mile long boardwalk extending out above my head. The people lining the sand of the beach were the epitome of what I would expect to find in California. It was a very diverse crowd consisting of “free-spirits”, hula-hooping enthusiasts, motorcycle gangs, and the surfers out in the water.


Avid hula-hoopers

Avid hula-hoopers

Surfers and Swimmers

Finally got to step in a different ocean.

Finally got to step in a different ocean.

The next day was spent exploring historic San Diego. The entire day, my roommate and I walked through Old Town. Eating burritos, drinking a margarita or two, window-shopping the tourist trap shops. I know what you’re thinking, “How can anyone spend an entire day in an awful tourist trap?” Try finding the name “Carolyn,” on a souvenir. Any souvenir! Aside from the shops, there were beautifully restored buildings housing the many restaurants. Mexican culture was celebrated in a majority of them with colorful flags waving in the breeze, and performers Salsa dancing for the entertainment of others. It was hard to come home that night knowing work would start in just two days.

A good place to go on my breaks from work.

A good place to go on my breaks from work.

Great View!

Only 10 minutes from where I live!

Only 10 minutes from where I live!

Sunset Cliffs.. A little less flat than Florida. Watch your step

As my internship just officially started this past Monday, I will be posting about it in my next entry. Keep coming by…


Hello, my name is Carolyn and I chose Embry-Riddle because it’s the best aviation school in THE WORLD! Also, it allowed me the opportunity to work closely with professors, start research early, and get involved with a lot of campus activities. I had my first conference presentation when I was 19, so the research opportunities make you look good for college.