College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

Past, present, future of space exploration: ECpE alum Lewis C. Hill II of NASA

As an outer space fanatic since grade school, Iowa State University’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering alumnus Lewis C. Hill II is living his dream as a software developer at NASA Johnson Space Center’s Space Vehicle Mockup Facility.

In Hill’s position, he helps to enable space exploration and works on many aerospace innovations, working daily with engineers onsite and at other NASA facilities, as well as with different software tools. The buzzing of engineers innovating new possibilities is a staple characteristic for Hill’s typical day.

Hill meeting Robonaut 2 (a robotic astronaut) at NASA.

“I can hear my teammates testing actuators, planning logistics and researching automation every single day,” Hill said. “My immediate team is focused on preparing for the new Gateway space station, to develop robotic automation, monitoring capabilities and to interface other onboard systems.”

The day-to-day tasks always have some variation, and Hill is able to incorporate some of his many hobbies and talents: GUI’s (Graphical User Interface), graphics, aerospace and sci-fi.

But Hill says that his time at Iowa State, and the education he received here in computer engineering, has given him the ability to further understand his teammates and what he can do to make their days easier.

“My Iowa State education has been extremely valuable from my first days on campus in June of 1993 through every position I’ve ever held,” Hill said. “Specifically, knowledge of computer systems, software engineering, all areas of core education, psychology, human computer interaction, professional communications and synesthetic design methodologies enable me understand and articulate the needs of my teammates.”

Hil’s time at Iowa State set a solid foundation for his success later on. He graduated in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering with distinction, but he didn’t stop there. In 2000 he graduated with a Master of Science in computer engineering with research excellence, and he finished his education in 2006 with a doctorate in human computer interaction with research excellence at Iowa State.

Now, as an alum, Hill is still part of the Iowa State community, and he works with many software-related projects happening in the area. Being a very musically oriented individual, Hill completed dissertation research in synthesia and music, and he performs and produces music with about a dozen musical and/or theatrical ensembles in the Twin Cities, Minnesota, area.

Hill says he was “humbled and honored” when he received his acceptance into his position at NASA in January, 2020. With his time at Iowa State and participation in several various projects, he gained knowledge in many topics, and at NASA he has the chance to apply several to his work.

“I spent a good part of 2019 journaling about my professional and creative projects, and I felt this opportunity would let me apply all of my skills in parallel,” Hill said. “I see the past, present and future of space exploration every day!”