Richards, a Nebraska native, is a mechanical engineering major at Dordt College. He has always been interested in aerospace engineering, a specific field of study Dordt does not currently offer. Therefore, Richards decided to pursue his academic dreams on his own this past summer by applying for an aerospace engineering internship with NASA.
With the Coopers—some supportive family friends of Richards’—living near one of NASA’s centers located in Huntsville, Alabama, the decision to apply for the internship simply made sense to Richards. He applied for one spot along with fifty other applicants and was excited to find out he was selected for the position at the Marshall Space Flight Center.
At the end of May, Richards moved down to Alabama and spent the rest of the summer working on a team with fourteen other interns, all of whom were also college students.
Although the interns worked as a team, Richards said that each intern’s personal responsibility played a huge role. “Basically, we had to start and finish our own project,” Richards said. “We told machinists what to do and just had to get it done.” Each intern also had a mentor who would regularly check in with their progress on the project.
Richard’s own project was research and development on metal joining. Every intern’s project was a small part of NASA’s most recent project, the Space Launch System (SLS), which he described as a “plan to take over the space shuttle” and continue growth in “out of earth orbit.”
Richard’s internship was a typical 40-hour-week, full-time job, but he was happily surprised to receive a salary and called the internship much more “professional-like” than he’d ever experienced. The internship was approximately two months long.
Although Richards could have chosen many other journeys for his junior summer, he is confident that interning for NASA was both a great decision and a blessing. Richards said it was simply “cool to be a part of [the entire NASA organization] and be around all the history and prestige.”
Kristin Janssen, Staff Writer