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My Cool Co-op with NASA: A Student's Perspective

Photo of Riley Daulton

Each year, ECS hosts our Cool Co-op Contest, and a winner is chosen in each of the following categories: Perk, People, and Projects. Riley Daulton, our Project winner, is the guest blogger this week. Below she talks about her incredible experiences at NASA.

I have had the pleasure interning three times with NASA! My first two internships were at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Cape Canaveral, FL (Spring and Summer of 2016). My third internship was at Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, TX. While working at NASA’s space centers, I contributed to the coolest projects out there!

At KSC, I was involved in design and testing of an instrument that would go to Mars or an asteroid and characterize the organic compounds on the surface. I was responsible for conceptual designs of different components of the instruments such as a pressure vessel and a fluid pump. I also worked in a lab to test the methods of removing the organics from the planetary surface that we were trying to implement. I contributed to testing a Mars lander that converts Mars’ atmosphere to rocket fuel. The fuel that this lander generates will be used to launch a rocket to bring astronauts back home from Mars. Lastly, I tested thermoelectric coolers to see if they could be used to freeze CO2 from Mars’ atmosphere. Throughout most of my projects, I utilized the coding skills in MATLAB that I learned at Ohio State. The work at KSC challenged me because I was given a lot of freedom in the projects I worked on, but there were also talented mentors available to guide me in the right direction. Aside from working on these awesome projects, I got to watch rocket launches during my lunch break, and work in the same building that astronauts are housed in before they launch.

My next internship at JSC was unique because Johnson Space Center is the center of human space flight. The culture there is all about getting astronauts to the International Space Station, which is a research lab orbiting the earth right now with astronauts from all over the world. Specifically, I worked on a project that was developing new coatings for a heat exchanger on the International Space Station. The heat exchanger dehumidifies the air by condensing water which is then purified to generate drinking water. At JSC, I also had the opportunity to work in a machine shop to build a test stand used for my project and gained a lot of valuable experience with hands-on tools. The coolest part about working at JSC was going to all of the lectures that were open to interns. I listened to over 5 astronauts give their story and listened to flight directors share the story of Apollo 13 from their perspective. I also [learned] about Orion which is a crew capsule that will carry the first crew to Mars, and [saw] James Webb Space Telescope go into vacuum chamber testing before it will launch in 2018.

My experiences at NASA have enhanced my education more than I could have imagined, and I am hoping to continue using my degree in chemical engineering to work towards getting man to Mars!

Was your co-op or internship experience awesome? If so, enter into the 2017 Cool Co-op Contest! Deadline for submission is January 31, 2018.

“Information is not knowledge. The only source of knowledge is experience.” - Albert Einstein

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