NASA Ames Robotics Academy
I spent the summers of 2008 and 2009 as an intern in the NASA Ames Robotics Academy.
The summer of 2008, I was one of four high school students working with sixteen college students. It was a great opportunity and privilege for me to have this experience, since it is a program for college students. I have wanted to work at NASA since I decided I wanted to be an astronaut back in first grade, and I have developed a passion for robotics since I joined the robotics team my freshman year. I did research on power supply options for a small lunar rover that is predicted to launch in 2012. The goal of the project is to develop a cheap lunar micro rover made out of primarily off-the-shelf components that other people could add specific instruments to in order to do lunar research. I also learned about thermal considerations that are needed in order for the rover to survive on the moon and the many other issues that people were working to solve, such as dust deflection. As a group, we developed the fifth prototype of the rover. The most interesting part was seeing how each of our subteams came together to make a finished prototype. It was fun being a part of a dedicated team that was as hard-working and enthusiastic as I am. I appreciated the fact that even though I was still in high school, my team valued my contribution. The college students taught me so much, but I was able to teach them as well, such as when I taught my group leader why the same side of the moon is always facing the earth. I helped give technical presentations to the NASA Program Executive for Solar System Exploration and the director of NASA Ames Research Center. It gave me greater confidence in my ability to be an effective team contributor and presenter, as I was the only high school student selected to participate in the presentations.
Prototype 5 of the lunar micro rover
Experimental solar panel we made Battery pack we made
I came back for the summer of 2009, this time as a college student (though it was the summer before I actually started college). I got to live in apartments with the other 25 interns, which was fun and taught me about living with a roommate and group living dynamics before I got to college, which was helpful. I was on the software team, which gave the the opportunity to learn so much because I knew basically nothing about software and programming. I primarily worked on the camera, where we were researching and testing different ones. I also got to work on the dust deflection device, which goes in front of the camera to keep the lens clear. I also worked on modifying a remote-control car to be a testbed for the camera system. And I learned so much about software and programming, mostly by watching and learning from other people. I got to help a little with an algorithm to keep track of where the rover has been so it could re-trace its steps if necessary. As an entire group, we developed the sixth prototype of the lunar micro rover. This project is still moving forward, and launch is a real possibility!
A prototype of the dust deflector Testing a camera on a remote-controlled robot
I loved doing research over the summer, and this is what led me to want to do research here at Stanford!