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'Embrace Your Inner Nerd'
Kyle Lewis wearing a communications headset

During his internship, Lewis had the opportunity to continue his family's ongoing relationship with aircraft. Image Credit: Kyle Lewis

During an internship at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on the eastern shore of Virginia, Kyle Lewis gained many benefits, including the opportunity to work hands-on with an unmanned aerial vehicle, the chance to fly on one of the facility's aircraft, and a possible career path.

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

I participated in the National Space Club Scholars internship at Wallops Flight Facility. I learned about the internship during my junior year of high school and applied for it the following summer. I ended up working at the internship during the summers of 2009 and 2010.

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

In the summer of 2009, another intern and I restored an RQ-2 Pioneer. This was an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle that was flown by United States Marines in the Middle East -- it still had Afghani sand in its container -- and was sent to Wallops in less-than-flight-worthy condition. We learned about the UAV and its command console, and set it upon ourselves to replicate what it would take to fly it. I helped rebuild and troubleshoot the command console, as well as rebuild the disassembled plane, although I never got to see it fly.

In addition to the hands-on work, I learned about many test flight procedures and the different aerodynamics that go into making airplanes fly. I continued learning aerodynamics the next summer, and was taught by a naval test pilot about many in-depth topics including lift, drag and stability. Learning about the future of flying through UAVs, as well as the aerodynamics behind conventional airplanes, is a very important proficiency to have. It enabled me to push the envelope of my learning and has given me both an interest and a potential career.

What has been the most exciting part of your research?

I would have to say getting to fly on one of Wallops' airplanes, a B-200 King Air, was very exciting. Being able to fly is one of the thrilling things I have been able to do, and it made learning about the physics so much easier.

Kyle Lewis in front of the P-3 Orion

Lewis also had the opportunity to work on Wallops' P-3 Orion aircraft, which is used as a research platform for scientists. Image Credit: Kyle Lewis

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

I am currently a freshman in the College of Engineering at Villanova University. I received a full Naval ROTC scholarship to the university, and I want to fly for the Navy when I graduate and become commissioned. I am also an Eagle Scout and volunteer EMT at my local fire station. In the future, I plan on majoring in mechanical engineering.

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

My grandfather was a career naval pilot, and my dad flies for the Maryland State Police as a Flight Paramedic, so flying has been in my family.

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

I will take away the experience of working with experts in scientific and engineering fields who have the resources to discover new information and share it with the rest of the world. I believe that is the embodiment of NASA.

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

Based on what I have already achieved, NASA involvement has taught me many engineering concepts, work habits and networking skills that have already benefited me in my young adult life, and will continue to do so. As for the future, I hope to stay involved in NASA and the network that it provided me by interning again, and possibly working for them as a second career.

What are your future career plans?

Upon graduation, assuming I stay on my current track, I will be commissioned as an ensign in the United States Navy. I am committed to a minimum of five years of service upon graduation. And depending on what I am doing, I might stay in for 20 years as a career, or retire. After the Navy, engineering and my work at NASA will become a gateway to a new career.

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

I would say to embrace your inner nerd. Your own pursuit of knowledge and sense of intellectual satisfaction should be a driving force for becoming involved with NASA. The people and resources here can satisfy even the thirstiest minds. For anyone who wants to try, embrace the challenge.

On the Web:
› NASA Education
› National Space Club Scholars
› NASA's Wallops Flight Facility

David Hitt/NASA Educational Technology Services