Pikes Peak Community College Students Are Securing Internships with the Space Industry

America’s resurgent interest in space exploration continues to reshape the academic and professional landscapes in some profound and economically encouraging ways. Government and commercial enterprises are searching aggressively for bright, visionary STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) majors to fill a host of professional positions that require expertise in fields ranging from asteroid mining to nanotechnology to graphic design to space suit development that will allow astronauts to survive in microgravity environments. Better still, the space industry encourages and rewards cross-pollination, which means a math major, for instance, might serve in several different professional capacities throughout the course of a career.

Colorado Springs is a city in keeping with this visionary future. In fact, around 1,000 STEM companies operate in the Springs. To leverage as many opportunities as possible for its students, Pikes Peak Community College has established several strong relationships with various space industry organizations. For instance, on Friday, October 28th, the Space Foundation and PPCC collaborated on an event called “Building Connections” in the Space Foundation’s Discovery Center. The event was divided into four stages: introduction and keynote address; internship opportunities; Space Discovery Center tour; volunteer opportunities and closing remarks. The audience was composed mostly of exceptionally bright and inquisitive PPCC students.

Bryan DeBates speaking to PPCC students

Bryan DeBates speaking to PPCC students

The Space Foundation’s stated mission is to “advance space-related endeavors to inspire, enable and propel humanity,” and they certainly succeeded in this regard. Space Foundation Vice President of Education Bryan DeBates delivered a neatly tailored overview of the multitude of professional possibilities available to anyone interested in seriously pursuing a career in the space industry. Likewise, PPCC guests were treated to an expertly delivered tour explaining rocket engine mechanics, spacesuit designs, a cornucopia of products we now use as a result of space technology (to include disposable diapers and cordless power tools), and so on. One thought-provoking exhibit in the Discovery Center features a large globe suspended midair in a circular auditorium, upon which are projected images ranging from weather patterns to live-time air traffic to the surface of the Moon.

The most significant phase of the event was an extended discussion on internship possibilities delivered by current and former PPCC students. Will Clark, who is dually enrolled at PPCC and UCCS, described his internship with the NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars program. Will competed with community college students from all over the country to design the best possible Mars rover, and he noted what a pleasure it was to share conversation with several brilliant NASA engineers. Student Britnee Staheli discussed her internship with the NASA-funded DemoSat project at PPCC, where students conduct high-altitude balloon experiments that focus on biological studies and weather patterns. Student Caitlin Randall described her internship this past summer at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado. This was a paid 10-week program exploring Department of Energy technology and instrumentation projects. Caitlin completed her internship with an extensive research-based presentation.

Caitlin Randall, Will Clark, Britnee Staheli

Caitlin Randall, Will Clark, Britnee Staheli

These and other internships are available to interested PPCC students for Spring, 2017. Please click on the following links for details and deadlines:

NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars program: https://nas.okstate.edu/ncas/

DemoSat Project: Contact PPCC Astronomy Department Chair Liz Coelho at liz.coelho@ppcc.edu

Community College Internships (CCI) program: http://science.energy.gov/wdts/cci/

Geo-Launchpad: www.unavco.org/geolaunchpad

REU Program in Solar and Space Physics: http://lasp.colorado.edu/home/education/reu

Noyce Scholars Summer “Explore Teaching” Internship program: Contact Janet Nichols at janet.nichols@csu.pueblo.edu

For more information about STEM internship opportunities, please contact:

Gwen Wiley
W119, Rampart Range Campus

Karen Summerson
F200, Centennial Campus

Photo By: Karen Summerson