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Up in the Air
During a summer NASA student opportunity, Cody Whitelock experienced a basic part of engineering -- moving from planning to reality. While working with rockets, Whitelock was able to compare the results of a simulation and an actual flight. Now, he hopes to someday move from the "simulation" of the student opportunity to a real-world career in engineering.

Cody Whitelock

Cody Whitelock participated in the NASA National Space Club Scholars in 2009 and the NASA Wallops Flight Facility STEP UP Program in 2010. Image Credit: Cody Whitelock

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 Program in 2009 and the NASA Wallops Flight Facility STEP UP (Science, Technology, Engineering Pipeline for Underserved Populations) program in 2010. I got involved with these programs by talking to employees that work at NASA and my teachers, and I did research and found that this was a great opportunity.

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

Nick Tibbetts (Space Club Scholar) and I conducted air rocket simulations, which simulated rocket trajectory and compared the trajectories with the actual launches of the bottle rockets. I created a computerized carpet-plotting program in QBASIC that asks the user for payload weight, QE (launch angle) and rocket name. It simulates and gives a cost analysis of all of NASA's sounding rockets. The carpet model provides data so that the sounding rocket project managers can give a cost analysis to the scientists. Finally, Nick Tibbetts and I worked on the RockOn! 2010 analysis, in which we conducted research on the Azimuth Anomaly, created a fault tree and finally formed a conclusion/theory on the anomaly for John Hickman (operations manager of the Sounding Rockets Program Office at Wallops). This topic is important because it shows engineering at its best with computer programming, designing, producing, (and) building of rockets, and then compares the data to find failures/problems that could occur, which leads into my declared major, mechanical engineering.

What has been the most exciting part of your research?

The most exciting part was comparing the air rocket simulation data with real-life testing of an air rocket.

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

I graduated from James M. Bennett High School in the Class of 2010. I am currently attending Clemson University, majoring in mechanical engineering and minoring in engineering graphics and mechanics.

Two students doing research with air rockets

During his summer at Wallops, Cody Whitelock conducted air rocket simulations and compared the trajectories with data from actual launches. Image Credit: Cody Whitelock

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

I always loved science, technology and design/building materials. "Iron Man" also was a big spark for me because it showed engineering at its core, designing something brand new that helps mankind push forward to a great future.

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

I am taking with me the experience of working in teams with engineers on complex projects and the knowledge that you gain from working with aerospace, mechanical and computer engineers.

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

It will give me great experience and knowledge for college, working at high-end jobs and to further my knowledge about space and engineering.

What are your future career plans?

I plan to earn a bachelor's, a master's and a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering and work for either NASA or the CIA.

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

Get involved early in science, technology and math with hands-on opportunities. Then start a technology club; join a tech club; get involved in STEM; go to technology base camps; take classes in science, math and computer programming; participate in FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics; and work very hard in school to build a great resume for a chance at a great internship at NASA. Whether it be the National Space Club Scholars, STEP UP, contractors’ interns or any other internship on base/surrounding area, take advantage of the experience and knowledge that you can gain from one of the greatest government agencies ever created -- NASA.

On the Web:
> NASA National Space Club Scholars
> NASA's Wallops Flight Facility Internship/Cooperative Programs
> NASA's Wallops Flight Facility
> NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
> RockOn!   →
> University Experimenters Sought for Suborbital Rocket Programs
> Student Scientists Rock On!

Heather R. Smith/NASA Educational Technology Services