EvCC student Amy Felt lands second NASA internship
For Everett Community College student Amy Felt, a second internship at NASA Kennedy Space Center has meant a chance to work in the Cryogenics Test Laboratory and stretch her engineering skills in new directions.
“The Cryogenics Test Laboratory has a one-of-a kind capability for research, development and application of cross-cutting technologies,” she explained. “The overall objective is to develop new technology and promote engineering for energy-efficient storage, transfer, and use of cryogens and cryogenic propellants on Earth and in space.”
The high point of the summer, she said, has been working on a wide range of projects from all over the country and being able to contribute to NASA’s overall mission. During her previous engineering internship at Kennedy Space Center, she worked on an Advanced Plant Habitat Environmental Control System. The technology she helped develop then is expected to be onboard a flight to the International Space Station in 2016.
When Felt applied for her first internship, she loved the idea of working for NASA. But as one of thousands of applicants for a limited number of internships, she thought it was unlikely she’d be selected.
“I thought it was never going to happen,” she said. During her first internship, Amy found out most interns were juniors while she was a sophomore. Despite their differences, she discovered the interns “pretty much all had the same knowledge.”
“Most people were surprised I went to a community college,” she said. “At the end of my internship, a couple of people at NASA asked what I was earning my master’s degree in. I told them I was finishing my second year of college.”
Amy’s love of engineering was inspired by a summer residency with Washington Aerospace Scholars, a statewide program for high school juniors. After graduating from Mount Vernon High, she initially enrolled at the University of Washington, where she struggled in large classes. After a UW advisor encouraged her to switch her major from engineering to business, she questioned whether she was in the right field.
She withdrew from UW and eventually enrolled at EvCC, drawn by the college’s engineering program. There the smaller classes and personal relationships with faculty gave her a chance to excel.
“Here, you do an application project every quarter,” she said. “The projects we did here – compared to the university students who don’t have those – give community college students an advantage.”
A Washington NASA Space Grant Consortium award last summer supported her internship at Janicki industries in Sedro-Woolley, a leading manufacturer of large composite structures for aerospace and marine applications. It was her first internship and a great introduction to what it was like working in an engineering environment. “Working for Janicki provided a base on which I continue to build my professional skills through my NASA experiences and engineering school,” she said.
Amy’s NASA mentor credits her hands-on experiences with giving her a competitive edge. Feedback from her instructors and her NASA experience convinced her that she was right to stick with engineering.
“There’s always ‘Am I going into the right field?’ and I went to NASA, and then I knew for sure,” she said. She recalled watching three rocket launches while at the Kennedy Space Center. “I went to NASA and fell in love with it, so I want to do something space-related.”
Data from the microgravity experiment she designed and built during her first internship will be published in a microgravity journal, and she will be listed as a co-author.
As co-president of EvCC’s Society of Women Engineers student club, she has shared information about her NASA internships with her fellow engineering students and future engineers.
“In addition to building her own future, Amy’s put a great deal of effort into building a community of engineers on campus,” said engineering instructor Kristine Washburn, the SWE club adviser and Space Grant representative on campus. Among other activities, she organized an outreach event for high school students to shadow EvCC students for a day.
After Amy returns from her NASA internship, she’ll start Washington State University classes through the WSU bachelor’s degree program in mechanical engineering offered on the EvCC campus.
Thanks to Katherine Schiffner, director of public relations for Everett Community College, for sharing Amy’s story. Additional material was provided by staff at Washington NASA Space Grant Consortium. To learn more about NASA internship opportunities, go to NASA’s One Stop Shopping Initiative website.