I’m here writing for NASA because of an internship program for my high school. That program ends today, so I’ll be talking about my time here - telling my own story for once, as it were.
Anyways, as a senior of Staples High School, I have won, as a product of my years of high school servitude, a month of freedom before graduation to spend at any internship of my choosing. Through a wonderful amalgam of kismet, effort, Todd Khozein, and Ali Llewellyn, I began my journey with the NASA Open Innovation team.
I went in to this specific internship in a state of mild fan-girl-freak-out (it’s freaking NASA, man!). To be honest, I’m not quite sure what I expected. My imagination was running so fast it probably could’ve launched into space. All I knew was that there was the International Space Apps Challenge, and that I would find some way to dig into it with hands, feet, and elbows.
Find a way I did. Within the dawn of my first day as an official NASA intern, I was enveloped in the Open Innovation Team. My passion is for telling stories and working with data - it was decided I would become the team’s story-miner, responsible for discovering the stories behind the data and participants of the Space Apps Challenge. (It’s through this position I discovered that blogging could be used for Actual Important Business, and not just funny cat gifs.) In seriousness, it’s through being the team’s story-miner that I discovered that my words are a medium for spreading innovation. As a seventeen-year-old about to go off to college to “make something of myself,” it’s a powerful realization. My time at NASA transformed my language from a tool I have used all my life to express my needs and opinions into a sword that I can use to carve my way in life.
All I seemed to need was a push in the right direction, and a conveniently placed WordPress account - it makes me think that maybe this sword has been there all my life, but merely sheathed, and my mentors and friends at open.NASA were the ones who only showed me how to pull it out and let it gleam.
As I sit here at the end of my official time with NASA, I’m trying to reflect back on what I’ve learned. I learned that working from home, as I had to do from my small Connecticut residence, is both wonderfully relaxing and strangely challenging. (No, Kiana, you can’t watch 5 episodes of Supernatural in succession, you have calls to make.) I learned through the patience of the small yet indomitable Sarah Rigdon how to use Twitter and navigate the streets of Washington, D.C. in high heels. From all-around genius Sean Herron, I saw that deadpan sarcasm and technological savvy are traits to never be undervalued, and from “Jedi Master” Nick Skytland that yes, it is possible to spend 11 hours on a plane innovating and creating and still return excited and ready to continue innovating. (Yeah, I didn’t believe it at first either.)
From my now-forever mentor, Ali Llewellyn, the things I learned were both simple and profound. Always discover as many paths to take as possible, so that you can take the fabled “one less travelled.” Hugs are always appreciated. Just because I’m only a teenager doesn’t mean I can’t change my own world, and just because it’s my own microcosm doesn’t mean that it can’t change the macrocosm we call Earth, or even space. When you talk about meatballs at NASA, you’re probably not referring to Italian food. But most importantly, passion is what keeps your work alive. Passion is what will revolutionize the world.
Never let go of that passion.