2018 Government Innovation Awards

Rising Star: Michael B. Cox

Data Scientist and Team Lead for Internet of Things, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

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Michael Cox worked as an intern at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory after his sophomore year of college, helping to automate reports and doing other database work. “I called them back when I was at graduation time, and the group I’m in now made an opening for me,” he said.

Now the team leader for the internet of things, Cox helps identify new consumer devices that could improve the way NASA employees work.

His efforts have resulted in several projects involving connected devices across the JPL campus. For example, Cox and his colleagues on the Tech Evaluation and Infusion Team have been using Amazon’s Lex to automate processes such as finding an open conference room for a meeting or quickly accessing contract information. Another effort involves adding safety controls to shop equipment so that people would only be allowed to use it after scanning their identification badge.

For Cox, though, the specific projects are less important than simply being part of the agency and its mission.

“I’m a kid in a candy store here,” he said. “I’ve always adored NASA and watched enthusiastically as rockets launched and as rovers landed on Mars. And I’ve always loved being a part of that and felt the sense of wonder of trying to help figure out what’s out there.”

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