MY OTHER GIG Dy­lan White

Tech­ni­cally, Colorado header Dy­lan White is a Sys­tems En­gi­neer who is work­ing on a space­craft—not a rocket—but it sits atop a rocket on its way to space, so, close enough for us non-rocket sci­en­tists in the room.

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As a kid grow­ing up in Al­bu­querque, New Mex­ico, Dy­lan White, 28, had a knack for tak­ing things apart and putting them back to­gether. Air­planes cap­tured his imag­i­na­tion orig­i­nally, but col­lege pre­sented him with the op­por­tu­nity to study aero­space en­gi­neer­ing, and sud­denly, the sky was no longer the limit. Still, White never re­ally imag­ined be­ing where he is to­day.

“The op­por­tu­nity to work in the space in­dus­try def­i­nitely be­came a re­al­ity in school,” he said, “but I don’t know that I ever thought I would be work­ing on some­thing as unique as this pro­gram.”

The pro­gram to which White is re­fer­ring is the Dream Chaser Space­craft by Sierra Ne­vada Cor­po­ra­tion (White’s em­ployer), in part­ner­ship with NASA, un­der their Com­mer­cial Re­sup­ply Ser­vice 2 (CRS2) con­tract. Ba­si­cally, Dream Chaser will be able to haul crew and cargo to space des­ti­na­tions in low-Earth or­bit, such as the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion.

Specif­i­cally, ac­cord­ing to Sierra Ne­vada Cor­po­ra­tion, “Dream Chaser will carry crit­i­cal sup­plies like food, wa­ter, and science ex­per­i­ments; and re­turns to Earth with a gen­tle run­way land­ing. The space­craft will pro­vide a min­i­mum of six cargo mis­sions to and from the space sta­tion be­tween 2019 and 2024.”

And, as if a space-ca­pa­ble ve­hi­cle wasn’t cool enough, Dream Chaser boasts smart de­sign—like, rocket-sci­en­tist smart— with fea­tures like its reusabil­ity (up to 15 uses) to en­sure cost-ef­fi­ciency and quick turnovers be­tween mis­sions, the abil­ity to ac­cess the ve­hi­cle im­me­di­ately af­ter land­ing (which was never an op­tion with pre­vi­ous space shut­tles due to the ex­plo­sive volatil­ity of the ma­te­ri­als used), and its abil­ity to re-en­ter Earth at half the speed of pre­vi­ous space shut­tles (1.5 Gs in­stead of 3 Gs) and to em­ploy com­mer-

cial run­ways around the world for an easy, air­plane-es­que land­ing.

Dream Chaser is an en­deavor with decades-old roots that has fi­nally taken flight in the past few years, and White plays an ac­tive role in the jour­ney.

“So, as a sys­tems en­gi­neer,” he ex­plained, “I work for a team that is help­ing to de­sign all the dif­fer­ent pieces that make up the ve­hi­cle it­self.”

It begs the ques­tion: How does a per­son work­ing to cre­ate some of the world’s fore­most tech­nolo­gies find time to rope? The an­swer: Eas­ily.

“I’m pretty for­tu­nate that I work in an in­dus­try where my work sched­ule is fairly flex­i­ble,” White said. “I’ve set my sched­ule up to where I can go into the of­fice at 6:30 so I can leave at 3:30, solely so I can go home and rope.”

While it may be tempt­ing to think of rop­ing as a re­lease from a de­mand­ing work en­vi­ron­ment, that’s not how rop­ing trans­lates for White, a Top Hand Ropes en­dorsee.

“I think the big­gest as­pect of rop­ing that I re­ally en­joy is putting ef­fort into some­thing and get­ting bet­ter. That’s def­i­nitely what in­trigues me the most. I’m the kind of per­son that gets ex­tremely ex­cited to go to the World Se­ries Fi­nale or a big rop­ing on my cal­en­dar. I get re­ally ex­cited for it and I put all my en­ergy into im­prov­ing my­self and mak­ing sure I’m com­pletely pre­pared. So that’s why I con­tinue to try to make time for it.”

Con­ve­niently, for this en­gi­neer, the arena also pro­vides just as much op­por­tu­nity to an­a­lyze the data and make ap­pro­pri­ate de­ci­sions ac­cord­ing to the out­comes.

“I ap­proach team rop­ing very me­thod­i­cally. It’s all num­bers to me. It’s all per­cent­ages and odds, and ev­ery as­pect that I can con­trol, I try to put it on paper and see how I can con­trol it.” Lit­er­ally.

“I will write down ev­ery run I make,” White ad­mit­ted of his com­pe­ti­tion runs.

In White’s rocket-science ap­proach to rop­ing, the num­bers can be very telling.

“One thing I re­ally like to do,” he of­fered, “is I like to write down all my runs at ev­ery com­pe­ti­tion and whether I caught, missed, or maybe broke the bar­rier, and put that into a spread­sheet and go back and look at my catch per­cent­ages and how much money I’ve won and how much money I’ve spent. Stuff like that.”

For White, who gar­nered his in­ter­est in rop­ing from his grand­fa­ther, the num­bers are the start­ing point of a whole-sys­tems anal­y­sis, and where his en­gi­neer­ing mind and his cow­boy roots meet, but he knows their lim­its, as well.

“Num­bers will only tell you so much,” he con­ceded. “But, the catch per­cent­ages are some­thing I en­joy look­ing at. I know that in my mind, if I can catch this per­cent­age of steers, then I think I’m go­ing to be suc­cess­ful. So, there­fore, if I’m not able to do that con­sis­tently, then I’m able to go back and say, ‘Okay, well, this week I need to work on catch­ing this num­ber of steers.”

Beyond what the num­bers say, White’s ap­proach widens into a much-re­lat­able tac­tic of un­der­stand­ing his strengths and weak­nesses and be­ing mo­ti­vated by his pas­sion for the sport.

“As a header, stay­ing ahead of my hors- es—be­ing able to help them as they run in­stead of get­ting in their way—is prob­a­bly the big­gest thing I have tried to work on con­sis­tently in the last sev­eral years.”

And when White says con­sis­tently, he means it.

“I try to rope ev­ery day, when I have the horse­power that al­lows me to do it. I def­i­nitely try to rope ev­ery day.”

And though White may ride into the prac­tice pen with per­cent­ages run­ning through his head, it’s the peo­ple in this in­dus­try who have cap­tured his heart.

“I think what’s unique about our sport is the peo­ple that want to help you get bet­ter. And I think that’s some­thing re­ally great about the rop­ing in­dus­try. There are a lot of peo­ple who can com­pete at a high level, but they re­al­ize that not ev­ery­body can rope at that high level right away. I think that’s some­thing that I def­i­nitely en­joy be­ing around is those peo­ple who will help you get bet­ter. You don’t al­ways find that in other in­dus­tries.”

“The big­gest as­pect of rop­ing that I re­ally en­joy is putting ef­fort into some­thing and get­ting bet­ter.”



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