It's a mixture of academic rigor and technology skills that brought students from Denbigh High School's Aviation Academy to NASA Langley on their spring break. A week of what could have been hanging with friends, vacationing, playing video games or relaxing turned into handling airplanes, learning about wind tunnels and doing tests for the International Space Station.
"It's exciting," said sophomore, Lauren Prox. "When I first came here I didn't realize how big it was and how many planes were here."
By midweek, Prox learned all the different procedures for starting a plane and how to check its compression.
Along with Prox, seven other students, ranging from freshmen to seniors, participated in the week-long NASA internship as part of the Newport News "Spring Break: Make it Work!" program. The program gives dozens of students the chance to shadow, intern or volunteer at local companies.
"It gives students a glimpse of careers along their interests, and it reminds students to continue to excel in their grades," said Dr. Aaron Smith, Aviation Academy program director, when explaining the numerous benefits of the program.
Those who interned at NASA Langley had the opportunity to be mentored by engineers and researchers from various fields including research services, engineering, science, cultural resource, technology and fabrication.
Senior Garret Baux worked on designing a piece of metal that was used on NASA's recently launched Inflatable Re-entry Vehicle Experiment (IRVE-3) - a technology used to protect spacecraft when entering a planet's atmosphere or returning to Earth. His drive to learn could possibly take him to a major in aviation maintenance technology. Baux also hopes to participate in the NASA Langley Aerospace Research Student Scholar internship.
It's evident that Baux is on the same path as many prior academy students.
Allen Jackson, NASA Langley electronics technician who mentored academy student Jordan Thompson, graduated from the Aviation Academy in 2007. It was déjà vu for him.
"I feel old," Jackson said laughing. "I feel like I'm basically looking back at myself."
Looking at a younger version of himself led Jackson to reflect on his journey to where he is now and how it will benefit Thompson, who's taking electronic classes as a junior.
"It's great because we are an Electronics Systems Branch so he gets more of that real life experience so he can learn why he's doing stuff in class," Jackson said.
For these students, experience, exploration and determination brings them endless possibilities.
"They come away with an enormous amount of new skills and experiences that will help them later when they're thinking about how to solve a problem," said Dave Fahringer, an engineering technician at NASA Langley. "We've seen lots of students in the past take what they've learned at NASA and bring it into what they are working on as engineers."
For a sneak peak of the students at NASA Langley, watch:
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NASA Langley Research Center