A Brief History of Me - An Engineer's Aspect


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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A Brief History of Me

Lately, I have been receiving quite a few E-mail inquiries about my history, interests, etc.

My favorite question recently was, "So, are you peculiar because you found Tesla?"

My answer, "Any female rocket scientist who has competed at Miss America and does math in her spare time for fun is already peculiar--without Tesla. Did I mention I live in a Monolithic Dome?"

That answer sparked some understandable incredulity. So, rather than repeat my story through E-mail numerous times, I decided to write a quasi-brief history here. This may be WAY more information than anyone ever wanted to know about me! So, please feel free to skip this blog post :).

A Brief History of Me
(a.k.a. Everything you didn't want to know...and more!)


My father, David B. South, along with his brothers, Barry and Randy, invented the process of building The Monolithic Dome. Many people know my father as a brilliant inventor, innovator, philanthropist and president of The Monolithic Dome Institute.

The three Monolithic Dome inventors (from left to right)--Barry, Randy, and David B. South, at their home in Island Park, Idaho. 

But...not only is David a great businessman, he is first and foremost, a great husband to my mother, Judy, and a thoughtful, concerned, involved father to nine children. He has inspired all of us to be more and to do more than we thought we could and he has always encouraged us to "think outside the box."

My mother, Judy South. is a singer, actress, seamstress, volunteer, organizer, interior decorator, Mother Extraordinaire and poet. She is also an inventor in her own right, inventing household aids and improvements including an irrigation system for her sprawling vegetable garden!

My mother, Judy South, as Annie Oakley in "Annie Get Your Gun" in 1965. 


There are nine of us all together, of which I am number three. I wish I were number seven so I could say I was "Seven of Nine," but that honor goes to my sister, Jessica.

The Nine South Siblings in 1999. 

Occupations among the siblings include: math professor, university librarian, philanthropist, computer genius/entrepreneur, a vice-president of The Monolithic Dome Institute, poet, writer, photographer, student, musician, rocket scientist, engineer.

Early Years: 

My early years were spent in Idaho. As a child, my family, as well as a bunch of cousins, lived on "The Ten Acres." The Ten Acres was a slice of paradise in rural Southeastern Idaho. We had a small farm complete with horses, cows, cats, dogs, and a coop full of chickens. During the summer, any spare time was spent swimming in the canal, riding horses, riding bikes, playing in the ditch, plundering our mother's garden, and, of course, playing with the chickens.

Life on The Ten Acres: Pictured: LaRae Grace (my cousin), Me, Jenny (my sister). 

Music was important to both of my parents' families. My father came from a long line of violinists and fiddlers, and many in my mother's family were in jazz bands.

My mother's father, Norman Bates, made a living playing jazz piano, performing with some of the greats. He spent time as the lounge player at The Beverly Hills Hotel in its heyday in the 1940s.

Below is a recording of "Autumn Leaves" my grandfather, Norman Bates, made at a gig in Honolulu, Hawaii. My grandmother, Maurine, stayed home, so Norman took along a tape recorder and recorded a musical love letter to her all night.


Needless to say, there were some musical requirements for being in the South Family.

I began violin lessons at the age of five and piano lessons at seven. I learned to play flute and saxophone during my school years and guitar later.

My Part in Musical Entertainment at a South Family Christmas Party. 

Physics, engineering, inventions and philosophy were common discussions at our dinner table.

One of my father's favorite questions to a newcomer at the table, like a boyfriend, was "If a car is traveling at sixty miles per hour, what is the speed of the bottom, the top, and the center of the tires?"  He really knew how to separate the men from the boys!

During Jr. High, my father, having recently invented the Monolithic Dome, built us a Monolithic Dome home on a 50-foot bluff overlooking the Snake River on one of the South Menan Buttes in Idaho. We named it "Cliffdome."

The living room in "Cliffdome."

My cousin, Lisa, and I in "Cliffdome's" kitchen. 

High School: 

There were only two requirements from my parents for high school--I was to take every math class available and every typing class available (My father predicted that there would be a computer in every home someday and that typing would become an essential skill).

I also enjoyed many extra-curricular activities: Cheerleading, Band, Scholastic Bowl, Girls' State, Student Council...but NEVER any ball sports. My level of incompetence in any activity involving hand-eye coordination was unusually high and extremely embarrassing!

Cheering for the Rigby Trojans (I am the one in the air). 


I went through a pre-engineering pageant phase. It began at age 17 and culminated with being named Miss Idaho at age 19.

I then competed at The Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City, New Jersey, where I was the youngest contestant. I played "Harlem Nocturne" on the Alto Saxophone with the Glen Osser Orchestra--an amazing experience!

Nanette South, Miss Idaho.

Rehearsing with the Glen Osser Orchestra at The Miss America Pageant. 

Post-Pageants (a.k.a. Real Life): 

I earned a B.S. in Mathematics and have completed all the coursework for an M.S. in Math. I became very excited about engineering and earned and M.S. in Engineering Structures and Mechanics.

Some interesting jobs I've held include driving crane, working for Space Dynamics Laboratory and ATK Launch in the Reusable Solid Rocket Motor group for the Space Shuttle. While at ATK, I also was part of the Stage Structures group for the ARES program that was slated to replace the Space Shuttle.


I am married to Gary Clark, Vice-President of The Monolithic Dome Institute and I have four awesome kids and four awesome step-kids!

I do Finite Element Analysis on a contract basis and work closely with The Monolithic Dome Institute.

I enjoy playing both the violin and saxophone in pit orchestras for musical productions in the area.

In my spare time, I love to research and write about engineering for this blog and I am writing a book (fiction).