Bringing NASA Home
Around campus at Tennessee Tech University, Adam Kimberlin is known as "the NASA guy."
"In a college of engineering that is over 2,000 students, I am recognized as 'the NASA guy' almost more so than my real name, and I wouldn't have it any other way," said the Tennessee Tech senior.
A mechanical engineering major, Kimberlin is a co-op student at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. He has participated in NASA's Undergraduate Student Research Project and the Marshall Space Grant Research Internship Project. These projects support NASA's goal of strengthening the agency's and the nation's future workforce.
Kimberlin recently helped organize a student symposium at his university about the future of human spaceflight. The symposium was tied to an in-flight education downlink between students at Tennessee Tech and astronauts on the International Space Station.
"Since I have been given the opportunity to do so many things with NASA and enjoy it so much, I have been able to take that knowledge and convey it to my peers to get them excited about NASA," Kimberlin said. "My credentials have increased so much since my first opportunity to work for NASA that it has allowed me to rise to positions of leadership within the College of Engineering here at my school, which I have used to help raise awareness for events such as this (the downlink)."
Presenting at the symposium was Tom Williams, manager of the Propulsion Research & Technology Branch at Marshall. (Kimberlin worked in that branch during his NASA co-op and internship assignments.) The symposium was attended by 115 Tennessee Tech students and student members of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, or AIAA, and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, or ASME.
Kimberlin is also one of the NASA Student Ambassadors, a group of high-performing NASA interns who help the agency inspire and engage future interns by sharing information, making professional connections, collaborating with peers and representing the agency in a variety of venues. He is president of the university's AIAA student chapter as well as the corporate relations officer of its ASME chapter.
"It is my job to make NASA as accessible to students here as possible," Kimberlin said. "Tennessee Tech is known for pumping out good engineers, and I want to help strengthen the ties between NASA and Tech because I think they both have a lot to gain. In the spring, I got my mentor, Dr. Polzin, to come up for a similar talk, and we pulled in a huge crowd here, which is solid proof that there is a strong interest here. Currently, there are about 80 Tech alumni working at Marshall. I would like to see that number keep going up."
Kimberlin said working for NASA has been one of his life's goals. He was given the opportunity to talk to NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden shortly after he was appointed to administrator, and Bolden asked Kimberlin why he decided to apply at NASA. "I told him I have wanted to be an engineer and an astronaut all my life," Kimberlin said. "He smiled and told me that people always gave him a hard time about being too optimistic, but after so many years of being in the aerospace industry, he realized that having an optimistic attitude was one of the greatest things he had going for him and to never let it go. So I don't plan on slowing down until I make it at least to LEO (low Earth orbit)."
While Kimberlin primarily works to engage his peers with NASA, he said he was excited to work with younger students who participated in a question contest and attended the downlink with astronauts, including Tennessee Tech alum and STS-129 Pilot Barry Wilmore.
"Inspiring the next generation of rocket scientists is one of the goals behind all of this, and I know that this was huge for a lot of these kids," he said.
NASA Student Ambassadors
NASA Undergraduate Student Research Project
Marshall Space Grant Research Internship Project
Marshall Space Flight Center
Heather R. Smith/NASA Educational Technology Services