From Limo Stereos to Next-Generation GPS Research
Navy Engineer Edward Agunos Lives His Childhood Dream
Growing up in San Diego, Edward Agunos, an engineer with the Navy's Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific (SSC Pacific) in San Diego, didn't know he wanted to be an engineer. But he sure enjoyed engineering-like challenges, such as exploring how bicycles and household appliances work. "I took apart the stereo even though it wasn't broken," he says. "I just wanted to see if I could put it back together again."
While in middle school, Agunos hit the tinkerer's "jackpot" when his best friend's dad went into the business of customizing limousine sound systems.
"His garage was lined with all this electronic componentry," Agunos recalls. "You could just grab some parts and figure out what works." Among his proudest accomplishments was an entry detection system that let him know when his mother had come in his room. "I didn't like her going in there without telling me," he laughs.
By the time he reached high school Agunos' inclination was clear -- engineering. Looking back, he says he liked the coursework and the challenges, recalling how when studying with his friends the person who finished their math homework first got to pick which video game the group would play next.
After graduating from San Diego State University with a degree in electrical engineering, Agunos went to work for the Navy laboratory. Today he is part of a team that researches ways to improve the Global Positioning System. Agunos' specialty is designing computer chips that simulate the location of each GPS satellite in the constellation of 32 that orbits the Earth. Doing so allows engineers to be certain the resulting devices will work as they are supposed to, regardless of time, place, or location of the satellites.
For anyone who thinks GPS has reached its zenith with computer chips in cell phones and electronic maps in cars, Agunos suggests that we are still at the beginning of the technology's usefulness. An example of a location-based feature he expects to be common is using a text message to call for a cab. "Ten minutes later the cab has arrived and you never had to talk to anyone or even tell them where you were," he says.
Agunos is enthusiastic about being part of his Navy lab's civilian team. "The experience has been amazing," he says. "The key thing is you work on a great team and you work on something you perceive as really exciting. What I do is cutting-edge stuff. The management here is great; they really support my growth as an engineer and a person."
For any potential engineer who thinks engineering is simply math and science equations and calculations, Agunos smiles and advises that is simply not the case at all. "That creative process is fun, but kids don't associate the science and math they do with being creative," he says. "But with that science and math you are going to be able to build something that the world hasn't seen before. That in itself is cool."