Student Features

A Step-by-Step Process
Michael Barnes

Michael Barnes is participating in the Motivating Undergraduates in Science and Technology project while majoring in computer engineering at Ohio State University. Image Credit: Michael Barnes

As a high school sophomore, Michael Barnes searched NASA's Web site for ways to become involved with the space agency while still in high school. His Internet search led him to an internship at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., just outside the nation's capital, in the summer between his junior and senior years. During the internship he learned about algorithms and step-by-step processes and started out on a step-by-step process of his own.

He has since progressed from a high school intern to a computer engineering major at Ohio State University and a scholar in NASA's Motivating Undergraduates in Science and Technology project. He plans to continue taking steps toward a career with NASA in the future.

In which NASA student opportunity project did you participate, and how did you get involved in it?

I am a NASA MUST (Motivating Undergraduates in Science and Technology) Scholar for the 2008-2009 school year. I also participated in the High School Intern Program at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in the summer of 2007. I got involved in these programs by doing research on the NASA Web site and information from the Internet.

Explain the research you conducted through your NASA involvement, and why this topic is important.

When I was an intern, I did a project on path planning algorithms with my mentor, Jeff Hosler. We programmed path planning algorithms for a sensor fleet in order for it to perform optimal coverage of a two-dimensional grid. These types of path planning algorithms are important in the fields of robotics and mobile sensors.

What has been the most exciting part of your research?

The most exciting part of the research was working with a mentor. I was able to get instruction from someone who had expertise in the field, and it helped me out a lot.

What is your educational background and what are your future educational plans?

I attended Forestville Military Academy (in Forestville, Md., near Washington, D.C.) for high school and graduated in 2008. I am currently a freshman at Ohio State University. In the future, I hope to go to graduate school and work on my Ph.D.

What inspired you to choose the education/career field you did?

My internship at Goddard Space Flight Center really inspired me to major in computer engineering. I didn't know what I wanted to major in before the experiences I had in completing that internship.

What do you think will be the most important things you’ll take away from your involvement with NASA?

I hope to learn how to function in a work environment with people more experienced than me. Also, I hope to be able to perform well at NASA so that I can work there in the future. Lastly, I will take away all the knowledge that I will receive. At NASA, you can learn so much, so I hope to learn as much as I can.

How do you think your NASA involvement will affect your future?

I think my involvement in NASA will help me out a lot because it can get me better prepared for my career after college. NASA is such a respected organization across the world, and it would be beneficial to have NASA on my resumé. Also, being involved with NASA could help me encourage some of my peers to consider working at NASA.

What are your future career plans?

I want to work at a NASA center and work with computers. I’m majoring in computer engineering so that in the future I can help develop new projects and improve current ones.

What advice would you have for other students who are interested in becoming involved with, or working for, NASA?

Take advantage of all the resources that NASA is providing to high school and college students. NASA is a great organization to work for. ... Lastly, do research on programs at NASA early so you can get a good chance of working at NASA.

Related Resources
NASA Motivating Undergraduates in Science and Technology
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center -- High School Internship Program   →
NASA 9-12 Education Programs
NASA Higher Education Programs
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
NASA Education Web Site

Heather R. Smith/NASA Educational Technology Services