• Inventor: Corey Jaskolski
    Corey Jaskolski is an engineer, inventor, and National Geographic Fellow.

    Photograph courtesy Ann Jaskolski

    U.S. Needs You
    We need more engineers, scientists, and mathematicians in the United States! According to CNN there are about 3 times the number of people getting engineering and math degrees in China (500,000 people) versus the US (150,000). A large number of engineering companies in the U.S. now get many of their engineers from other countries because there aren't enough here!

    By National Geographic Education Staff

    Tuesday, August 21, 2012

    Corey is an engineer who develops technologies to help people such as archaeologists, filmmakers, biologists, and citizen scientists explore the world in a new way. The technologies Corey develops include a robotic camera system that takes the world’s highest-resolution underwater images, a color night-vision camera that takes both video and photographs, a 3-D scanner that quickly makes 3-D digital captures of archaeological finds, and a new type of camera trap that instead of taking pictures of animals can scan them in 3-D.


    Corey has been an explorer all his life. His grandparents’ yard in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was the site of his earliest expeditions.

    “Their yard . . . was a never-ending place of adventure and exploration,” Corey remembers. “[M]y little brother and I built forts, searched for bugs, and dug in the dirt looking for worms. More than a few times we even found animal footprints!”

    Corey’s parents and grandparents encouraged him to explore the world, even if it took him a little off-course.

    “The same grandparents also had some forested property, and one time they gave all of us kids compasses and walked us far out into the woods. I made it out OK, but was a few hundred feet off of where we were supposed to come out because I went to the left around every obstacle. All of those little jaunts to the left ended up putting me a bit off-course. I really respect map and compass skills now!”

    Corey consistently pursued his fascination with science, technology, and the way things work. These interests led him to the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, where he earned degrees in both physics and math. He then went on to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he earned degrees in electrical engineering and computer science.

    Still, Corey attributes some of his success to an early insight into what it means to be a scientist and engineer.

    “When I was a kid and heard the word ‘scientist’ I learned that this was someone who tried to answer questions in order to better understand the world. This sounded like just about the coolest thing in the world! I was always full of questions—I think maybe I drove my mom a bit crazy—and never believed anything until I investigated it myself.”


    “The most exciting thing about my work is being involved with researchers doing amazing things all around the world. I had the unique opportunities to stand alone in Tut’s tomb, cave dive in Mexico, descend 12,500 feet to the Titanic in a three-man sub, and suction-cup cameras on humpback whales in Alaska.

    “The technologies I develop share the world from perspectives that make people think about some of the cultural, historical, or natural places that need to protection.”


    “The hardest part of my work is solving difficult problems, often in the field with limited equipment. When something goes wrong with a piece of my equipment, there is no troubleshooting manual . . . I have to figure out what is wrong and fix it fast so that the researchers can get their job done. This has involved lots of sleepless nights and trips to hardware stores in foreign countries, but I almost always get it working again.”


    “To me geography is connectedness. Every feature of the land affects what lives there, how the local animals and plants have evolved, and even the weather. Nothing is unimportant; everything is connected as if the world is an immensely complicated dance with billions of dancers.”


    The geographic perspective pervades all of Corey’s work.

    “All of my work is focused on helping people see the world in a new light,” he says.

    Technology, Corey says, is a vital part of modern geography and cartography. From 3-D scans of archaeological finds, to sophisticated cameras that bring remote underwater cave systems to light to night-vision cameras that monitor protected wildlife areas, technology can be an “ever-vigilant partner, watching the things that we can’t see.”

    In addition to thinking geographically, Corey’s work takes him all over the world. He’s scanned the entirety of King Tut’s tomb in Egypt, with resolution high enough to read the hieroglyphics on the pharaoh’s sarcophagus. He’s taken the world’s highest-resolution underwater photograph—at Hoyo Negro cenote, on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. He’s developed a quirky “people-remover” imaging tool that allows sophisticated cameras to scan Colorado’s Rocky Mountains for photographs without pesky tourists or hikers.

    Corey’s next geographic expedition may take him to Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park. He hopes his innovative color night-vision cameras can quietly capture the park’s lions hunting by moonlight.


    Although math and science are essential, Corey says the most important aspect of engineering is one developed outside the classroom.

    “The best engineers I ever met aren’t necessarily experts at math or one particular science. They instead have a broad understanding of all of the different areas so that they can think beyond one narrow focus and solve problems creatively.”

     “The biggest part of being a good engineer is to ask lots of questions," Corey continues. "If people didn’t try to think of new ways of doing things, there would be no cell phones, televisions, or even light bulbs! There are no ‘stupid’ questions since every question asked increases your knowledge.”

    Corey is enthusiastic about the fact that engineering—solving problems creatively—is an incredibly broad field. Even his own work, developing tools for disciplines from archaeology to zoology, is just a glimpse into what engineers can do.

    “There are lots of different types of engineering: electrical, mechanical, civil, chemical, aerospace, software, and many more. Electrical is the best, though!

    “I am kidding, but that’s what I went to school for!”


    “Go out into the woods, wetlands, or a field just to take pictures. You don’t need a fancy camera; anything that can take pictures will work. If you walk slowly outside with the goal of taking pictures, it is amazing how many cool things you see! I have spent many hours doing this and it never gets boring. If you need ideas, try taking pictures of bugs and then looking them up on the Internet for identification at home. See how many different types of birds you can photograph. Keep a record book with what you saw and notes and you will soon have an impressive list of creatures you have photographed.”

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    3-D Adjective

    something appearing in three dimensions, giving the appearance of depth.

    archaeologist Noun

    person who studies artifacts and lifestyles of ancient cultures.

    biologist Noun

    scientist who studies living organisms.

    cartography Noun

    art and science of making maps.

    cenote Noun

    natural sinkhole or reservoir where groundwater is available.

    compass Noun

    instrument used to tell direction.

    Encyclopedic Entry: compass
    engineer Noun

    person who plans the building of things, such as structures (construction engineer) or substances (chemical engineer).

    enthusiastic Adjective


    equipment Noun

    tools and materials to perform a task or function.

    essential Adjective


    evolve Verb

    to develop new characteristics based on adaptation and natural selection.

    expedition Noun

    journey with a specific purpose, such as exploration.

    forest Verb

    to cover with trees and other vegetation.

    geographic perspective Noun

    a way to understand a topic or area using spatial features and relationships.

    geography Noun

    study of places and the relationships between people and their environments.

    Encyclopedic Entry: geography
    glimpse Noun

    short look.

    hieroglyphics Plural Noun

    written language using pictures to represent words or ideas.

    jaunt Noun

    short journey.

    King Tut Noun

    (1341-1323 BCE) nickname of Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun.

    pervade Verb

    to spread throughout all parts of something.

    physics Noun

    study of the physical processes of the universe, especially the interaction of matter and energy.

    radar Noun

    (RAdio Detection And Ranging) method of determining the presence and location of an object using radio waves.

    sarcophagus Noun

    stone coffin, usually decorated with inscriptions.

    technology Noun

    the science of using tools and complex machines to make human life easier or more profitable.

    Titanic Noun

    luxury cruise ship that sank in the North Atlantic Ocean in 1912.

    vigilant Adjective

    alert and watching out for danger.

    weather Noun

    state of the atmosphere, including temperature, atmospheric pressure, wind, humidity, precipitation, and cloudiness.

    Encyclopedic Entry: weather
    wetland Noun

    area of land covered by shallow water or saturated by water.

    Encyclopedic Entry: wetland
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