For release: 07/21/03
Release #: 03-123
Twenty-three local high school students are working as apprentices to scientists and engineers at the Marshall Center this summer. NASA's Summer High School Apprenticeship Research Program, or SHARP, is designed to attract a diverse group of students to aerospace careers.Photo: Jennifer Simmons (l), coordinator of Marshall's SHARP program, is pictured with students Evan Ragasa, Deborah Anderson and Latisha Johnson in the Building 4200 lobby outside the Heritage Gallery. (NASA/MSFC/Emmett Given)
Often a typical high school student's summer job is mowing lawns, babysitting or flipping hamburgers. But 23 area high school students participating in NASA's Summer High School Apprenticeship Research Program, or SHARP, at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., are "SHARP-ening" their skills beyond fast food and child-care.
The SHARP students were selected for the eight-week summer program based on their aptitude for, and interest in, science and engineering careers. They work as apprentices to Marshall Center scientists and engineers - not a bad job for 17- and 18-year-olds.
Supervised by mentors, the students conduct research, analyze data, develop their oral and written communications, and polish their computer and leadership skills.
"It's always been my dream to work at NASA," said 18-year-old Kreig Jean, a recent graduate of Lincoln High School in Fayetteville, Tenn. Assigned to the Marshall Center's Engineering Directorate this summer, Jean is getting hands-on experience with composite design, fabrication and test of cargo tank panels — work that could have an impact on the next generation of launch vehicles in the nation's space program. This fall, he begins his study of mechanical engineering at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.
The NASA SHARP program was designed to attract a diverse group of high school students to aerospace careers. It is one of the many NASA programs that supports educational excellence through outreach at NASA field centers around the country and contributes to the achievement of the nation's science and technology goals and priorities.
Athens High School basketball standout Latisha Johnson, working with Marshall's Safety and Mission Assurance Office this summer, is helping formulate procedures that ensure International Space Station and Space Shuttle hardware is operating safely before it's installed.
Johnson has shown tremendous initiative in applying her summer job experience to her career goal of becoming a neurologist, said her mentor, Elaine Duncan. "Latisha has used the hazard analyses checklist we use to ensure space mission safety as a model, and developed a hazards list relating to the risks involved in brain surgery," Duncan said. "She will include her findings in a final report when her internship ends." Johnson is a senior at Athens High School with a 3.8 grade point average and a member of the school's state championship basketball team.
Deborah Anderson is a senior at two Huntsville high schools - Johnson and Lee. She excels in academic and advanced placement courses at Johnson - maintaining a 4.0 grade point average. And she's enrolled in Lee's Magnet Program to take advantage of its vocal, choir and show choir classes. This somewhat unusual set-up allows her to expand her knowledge and participate in the performance arts she enjoys, while taking the best of the academic coursework the schools have to offer - courses she knows she'll need for her career plans.
In her summer job with Marshall's Safety and Mission Assurance Office, Anderson helps engineers perform pre-safety assessments of hazardous test operations. A recent day in the field found Anderson looking for safety hazard violations. Anderson reviewed things such as platforms used for maintenance and construction, even some things people normally take for granted, such as holding the handrail while going up and down stairs. "I never realized until now just how important that is," she said.
Recent Athens High School graduate Evan Ragasa is working on the X-37 - NASA's advanced technology flight demonstrator that will help define the future of space transportation. Ragasa is learning MATLAB, short for MATrix LABoratory, a high-level computer language preferred in many university engineering programs. He's converting a portion of the X-37 Approach and Landing Test Vehicle (ALTV) aerodynamic database to a format suitable for use by MATLAB, said his NASA mentor, Kurt McCall.
"I could have been bagging groceries or doing odd jobs this summer," Ragasa said. "But here I am working for NASA. It's an experience I'll never forget. I feel like some lucky guy."
Each year, approximately 400 high school students participate in the SHARP program at NASA's 13 participating field installations. College students may apply for NASA's SHARP program as residential participants at colleges and universities in the United States, where they work with mentors at industrial sites or in research laboratories at host institutions.
For more information about NASA education programs, visit:
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