151 episodes
since Mar, 2014


Welcome to Awesome

For one week over the summer, I was attended the VSCS (Virginia Space Coast Scholars) program at Wallops Island Flight Facility in Chincoteague, VA. I first heard of the program at Rumble at the Roads, an offseason competition hosted by FIRST Chesapeake FRC teams 1610, 2663 and 5957. I was given an information flyer that directed me to the VSCS website. From there, I completed an application about myself and my extracurriculars and required a letter of recommendation from a teacher as well as a transcript from my counselor. The main part of VSCS is a 5-month online course that determines whether you are invited to a summer academy. I didn't find the course to be particularly challenging; however, it was a lot of work. It consisted of essays, reading an online textbook with each module, doing projects where you must create models and representations, math assignments and more. If you put in work you could easily get a good grade on the assignments. I worked with a master teacher, named Chris Foust, who gave me feedback and kept me up to date with my assignments. The final module was a capstone project where I had to create a mission using everything I learned up to that point. At times, I questioned if what I was doing was worth it, but I kept the idea of the summer academy in my mind and I pressed on. I ended up with an 87 in the class (far from the top), due being late on some assignments but in the end, I got the summer academy invitation. We did all kinds of things during our weeklong course at Wallops Flight Facility, but the focus was designing a mission to present to NASA scientists, engineers and others. We each were assigned a launch platform; mine was Expendable Launch Vehicles. My team had eight others, each of whom was assigned one of five offices: Science, Program, Range Operations, Environmental Affairs and Public Affairs. I was the only one in my group in the program office, where I determined the cost, weight and instrumentation for our mission. The science office is like our design team on Blue Cheese: determine what objectives our mission will cover and how design how that will be done. The public affairs office is like media and outreach on our team. Range covered safety for the mission, and program covered instrumentation, maybe like sensors for our robots. During the program, we could interview how to become a project manager for our launch platform. I was the last of the nine people to get interviewed, and I got the position which made me overjoyed. I guess the fact that I took a class through the CIT called Project Management might have helped. We got to work with an actual rocket scientist, Peter Terlington, who advised us while designing this mission. We got to tour facilities, and see places like the Antares launchpad, mission control, and a Cygnus spacecraft (that resupplies the International Space Station) while it was still inside the clean room. We designed small rockets and launched them, we got to fly drones, see an unmanned aerial vehicle runway, hear from the son a Tuskegee airman, listen to NASA employees talk about their jobs, and work on engineering challenges all in one week. My personal takeaway from this experience (other than the memories) must be the connections I made. At VSCS, I met a lot of people, some of which I am still in contact with and I now officially can say I am connected to NASA. By participating in this course, I was told that ears would perk up in future interviews if I presented this. And by participating in VSCS, it makes it easier for me to pursue in subsequent programs like VASTS or VESS. If you are interested in joining this program, start by going to their website, https://vscs.spacegrant.org/. Note: This program is only available for sophomores, but subsequent programs like VAST


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