To Infinity and Beyond
Boise State undergraduate and graduate students have access to exciting opportunities through academic awards, ongoing partnerships, and relationships. These experiences were first brought to campus by former astronaut Barbara Morgan, distinguished educator in residence at Boise State, among others.
Students have gathered data in zero-gravity environments, tested robots, researched Greenland’s ice sheets and participated in hands-on STEM learning programs – proving that whatever your interest, the opportunities are within reach at Boise State. These experiences open doors, inspire creative minds and build relationships for the future, which have helped Boise State alumni transition to working with NASA and in the aerospace industry professionally.
Team Micro-g NExT
Undergraduate students were asked to design, build and test a tool or device that addresses an authentic, current space exploration problem for NASA’s Micro-g NExT challenge. The overall experience included hands-on engineering design, test operations and educational/public outreach.
A team of nine Boise State students from across disciplines formed the first-ever Micro-G NExT team. Their goal was to design a tool to help astronauts collect soil samples in future asteroid missions.
They call the device a Zero Operable Interplanetary Delivery Based Ergonomics Grabber (ZOIDBERG) named after a character in the TV show “Futurama.” The tool was tested June, 2015 at NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Lab (NBL), a 6.2-million-gallon indoor pool that mimics the microgravity space environment at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.
Boise State was one of only 19 university teams selected nationwide. The Idaho Statesman shared their story across the state as it was happening, and NASA featured the team in their newsletter.
Students directed the movements of divers in the NBL pool and took the tool through its paces. Each team was given 30 minutes to complete their tasks – collecting and containing three uncontaminated samples of loosely adhered surface rocks (float samples). ZOIDBERG completed everything in less than 7 minutes, a win for the Boise State team.
Video of Boise State NASA Underwater Test
June 3, 2015: Boise State’s Micro-G NExT Team test their asteroid float sample device at Johnson’s Space Center Neutral Buoyancy Lab.
The 2015 team included Camille Eddy, Eli Andersen, John Cashin, Colton Colbert, Jacob Davlin, Scott Warren, Marina Autina, Zachary Chastaine and Christopher Ruby. Faculty advisors were John Gardner, Lynn Catlin and Gus Engstrom, in the Department of Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering, and Barbara Morgan, former NASA astronaut and a distinguished educator in residence at Boise State.
From prestigious NASA student internships to faculty being awarded NASA research grants and student teams being selected for the prestigious Microgravity University, Boise State has honed its growing connections with NASA. Those efforts have paid off for several recent graduates who have landed jobs with NASA and its contractors, and are now working in fields such as spaceflight and aviation.
Mo Nguyen (B.S., mechanical engineering, 2011) is a design and project engineer at Lockheed Martin in Houston, Texas, in the Landing and Recovery Systems group. She is working on NASA’s Orion project, on the Crew Module Uprighting System that aids in the recovery of astronauts after they return to Earth. Orion is a spacecraft designed for human exploration of Mars.
“Every day and every project is different than the previous. It feels incredible to be able to contribute to space exploration, as it has always been a dream of mine.”
“I enjoy working with spaceflight systems as a software engineer because I’m often removed from the abstract world of programming. I get to see my work come to life during functional hardware tests as we work toward launch — twice from the summit of Mauna Kea.”
Other Boise State Alumni
Dan Isla (B.S., electrical and computer engineering with a minor in computer science, 2009) works at NASA as an electrical and software systems engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California
T.J. Anderson (B.S., materials science and engineering, 2009) is a pressure vessel engineer at Jacobs Technology, contractor to NASA Stennis Space Center, in St. Louis, Missouri
Haley (Adams) Anderson (B.S., mechanical engineering with a minor in theatre arts, 2009) works as a project manager for Jacobs Technology in support of NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, Louisiana
Rebecca (Becca Ahern) Ludwig (B.S., materials science and engineering with an emphasis in mechanical engineering, 2009) is a materials protection and performance engineer at Boeing in Seattle, Washington
Ellen Rabenberg (M.S., materials science and engineering, 2012) works in the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, in the Failure Analysis and Metallurgy Branch, a support group that is mainly focused on analyzing the chemical structure of a wide array of materials.
James Carrillo (B.S., mechanical engineering with an emphasis in materials science, 2012) is employed at Boeing Commercial Airplanes in Renton, Washington as a design engineer.
“Our alums are doing wonderfully in their fascinating new careers. They are bright, highly motivated people, and all the experience they gained as students doing real-world research. Boise State University prepared them well.”
— Barbara Morgan, former astronaut and distinguished educator in residence at Boise State
Photo of Barbara Morgan at Albertsons Stadium provided by The National School Board Association.
Other photos on this page provided by participants. Boise State thanks NASA for the use of their test video and insignia.