Andrew Kempen ’21 decided to pursue an academic career in electrical engineering because he wanted a challenge.  

“I chose electrical engineering because it was something I didn’t know much about and thought it would be a nice challenge to undertake,” said Kempen. “My interests lie in many areas—computer science, mechanical and electrical engineering—and I just could not choose which one I wanted to focus on, so I chose the one I thought I knew the least about and couldn’t easily teach myself on the side.”

The Waukesha, Wisconsin native’s thirst for learning fueled his academic career. MSOE’s emphasis on experiential learning helped prepare him for the internships he held as a student. “My favorite part about MSOE was the hands-on classes. Getting experience working with lab equipment and setting up experiments in class has been extremely helpful for my work.”

In his time at MSOE, Kempen interned at Hydro-Thermal as an electrical engineering intern and at Collins Aerospace as a software engineering intern. The summer before his senior year he landed an internship at SpaceX where he worked on the sensor development team developing sensors for the Dragon capsule and for the Starship program. This internship evolved into a full-time job after graduation, solidifying a dream Kempen held for years.

“I read Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashley Vance a number of years ago and was instantly captivated by Elon’s vision of the future and the stated mission of SpaceX. Ever since then, working at SpaceX has been my dream job.”

As a sensors development engineer for SpaceX, Kempen is responsible for developing and supporting new sensor design for the various environmental and navigation sensors on the company’s spacecraft.

“Everything we work on is pushing the boundaries on either what we know or what we can do. But once you are able to overcome those challenges, definitely the most rewarding part of the job is having a hand in making parts and technologies that actually go on rockets to space—and back!”

Kempen is no stranger to spearheading projects and overcoming challenges. He co-founded the Raider Robotics VEX U team at MSOE, which recently took home the Excellence Award from the VEX U World Championship. He also founded MSOE Robotics to promote robotics at MSOE and in the community. Additionally, he served as a member of the FIRST Ambassadors program where he mentored local FIRST Robotics teams and taught engineering skills to K-12 students.

For current students aspiring to land their dream jobs after graduation, Kempen recommends getting involved on campus and in the community to gain more experience in the things they enjoy.

“The best thing you can do in college is get your hands dirty and really apply the concepts you learn in class. MSOE is great at doing this as a part of the curriculum, but I really recommend extending that by getting involved in technical extracurricular clubs and internships. The experience you gain in these clubs and internships applying the skills you learn in class will give you a serious leg up when applying to internships or full-time jobs. After all, experience is the best teacher and the worst experiences teach the best lessons, so don't be afraid to make lots of mistakes!”