Stephen Shaw has been passionate about learning how things work since he was a kid.  

Between that, and his love for math, science, and engineering, the Spring 2022 graduate went for an Engineering degree and has gotten to use his talent and skills in a variety of awesome ways. 

Shaw began his time at Winona State as a Composite Materials Engineering major.

But as his education continued, he realized he couldn’t explore his interest in physics as much as he wanted on that pathway.

He switched his major to General Engineering — a new program at WSU — which allowed Shaw to focus on physics, while remaining in the Engineering program.  

“I like the idea of creating something so innovative and unbelievable that it works,” he said.  

When Shaw wasn’t digging into his coursework, he was jumping at opportunities to get involved in innovative projects.  

Shaw, along with four other students, competed in the Gleam Lunar Robotics Challenge that’s put on by the NASA-funded organization called Minnesota Space Grant Consortium, which holds aerospace science and engineering competitions for high school and college students.  

“We were tasked with designing an exploration system (including a rover) to explore a totally dark mystery course that was supposed to resemble the moon,” Shaw said. “I was the Technical Team Lead and also focused on developing the electronic systems for our solution.” 

As a separate project, for the last two years, Shaw has worked on mechanical and electronic circuit designs with Dr. Carl Ferkinhoff for the Hardware Astronomy Housekeeping Box known as the H.aHK Box.  

The Box reads and controls the temperature of certain detectors in a Spectrometer, which is an astrophysics instrument in a telescope that detects certain spectrums of light coming in from the universe from distant galaxies.

For the detectors to stay cold enough to function, the box relies on hardware and electronics that Shaw helped work on.  

This summer, Shaw will take their developments with the H.aHK Box to the 2022 SPIE Astronomical Telescopes and Instrumentation conference in Montreal, Canada. He’ll submit conference proceedings and present some of his team’s personal findings.  

Outside of these projects, Shaw has been involved in more than just research. He was also a part of Physics Club, serving as the treasurer his junior year and Club President this year.  

Once he graduates, Shaw will start his career as an engineer at Benchmark Electronics in Winona. He plans to head back to school for his master’s degree in the future as well.  

In the meantime, he can’t wait to continue using his skills and education to push the limits of what’s possible.  

“True innovation is making people believe in magic,” he said.