Discovering my own sp.ace
So much has happened in only 2 semesters, 245 days including weekends. Through this time I’ve been documenting and getting ready for this moment, to tell you my story. I’ll start from the beginning and share how I got here in the first place.
A year ago, I was a senior in high school interning in the Office of Education. I was participating in the JSC innovation day scavenger hunt, and had no idea of the discoveries I was going to make that day. One of the challenges was to go into building 29 and take a picture with all the green chairs in the sp.ace. This was the first time I saw the collaborative work space and I completely fell in love with the whiteboards, writable tables, all the macs, the liquid galaxy, and just the vibe I got from the room. Here, I met these incredible people that taught me the benefits of a transparent environment and collaboration, and shared their goals to influence this way of thinking throughout the center. I suddenly felt like I had been isolated by my cubicle; I saw this as my opportunity to leave my little box and simply asked how can I work for you? The response I got in return caught me by complete surprise, “what would you like to work on, and what can we do for YOU to make that happen?” That was it. I couldn’t believe i was still in Johnson Space Center. This question gave me the freedom to find my very own projects and work on the things I was actually interested in.
My first blogpost listed every space app on both android and IOS platforms. This list of 46 apps was then noticed and featured on fedscoop and later retweeted by NASA. The real reason this was special to me was because this was the first time I collaborated and it was a complete accident. I was in the sp.ace trying to make my banner stand out by using a bootlegged photoshop that wasn’t cooperating with me. Another intern was working in the sp.ace that same day, and he happened to have photoshop on his laptop and he also happened to be a photoshop ninja! I almost wanted to keep that a secret. To my surprise, when I told my mentor about this partnership she encouraged this kind of performance. My cubicle was something that I gladly sacrificed for this type of collaboration.
Last astronomy day, I tagged along with a few Co-ops from JSC to volunteer at the George Observatory. We were involved with all the kid activities, and my job was to help make clip-on buttons of cool space pictures that we cut out of magazines. We then gave them out for free! Later in the day, when everyone was looking through telescopes we went around to every line and asked people random questions about space. It was really fun to see the kids getting very competitive. The event coordinators surprised us with a challenge. We were able to simulate a spaceflight (I was an astronaut), through their mission control and space station mockups. It was a great experience!
Wings over Houston was also another volunteer experience. I joined Public Affairs and helped them manage their exhibit. Being seen as a NASA representative to the public eye made me appreciate this experience so much more. I really enjoyed educating the public and getting them excited about space food! I was able to meet a lot of great people, not to mention enjoy the awesome airshow. I cherish the volunteer time that I’ve gained mostly because in the past when I tried to to volunteer for NASA I was simply ignored. I’m well aware of how RARE it is for a young student like me to get an internship experience like this one so I made sure to take advantage of any tour, lecture, or volunteer experience that was presented to me.
While working in an open environment like the collaborative work spaces at JSC, it’s easy to find people that enjoy talking about their goals. I’ve been exposed to so many new projects, concepts, ideas, and somewhere in between I even found someone that had been working on something very similar to my project. I was in the process of making the center’s buildings 3D on Google Earth, but I could not find the dimensions that I needed in order to make the buildings proportional. After bugging people for the dimensions for about a month my solution walked in and sat on the table right across from me. He was working on a app for new JSC employees that would have a map and a small description of the buildings to help them get around. Luckily, he knew someone that had the dimensions and was more than willing to share them with me.
As a side project, I was planning to shoot a video for the Career Exploration Program. Through this video we wanted to show our mentors how our life was impacted by this program, and why it’s important to keep programs like this one alive. At the same time, I was helping with the preparation of the International Space Apps Challenge and found that there was a “for the record” challenge calling for a solution that would allow NASA interns to share their experience gained from their educational program. How could I NOT tackle this challenge.
[vimeo 65449549 w=500 h=281]
The International Space Apps Challenge played a huge role in my internship. I had always thought about collaboration within JSC. This was the first time I saw the big picture, and the first time I was exposed to this idea of mass collaboration. I was able to incorporate my video into that challenge, and decided to bring my project to the Space Apps Houston event where complete strangers were more than willing to help us send our message. We got many new ideas for the introduction part our video, and in result came up with many different version of this video.
[vimeo 65454737 w=500 h=281]
The International Space Apps Challenge was my first hackathon and a huge learning experience. Being in this environment full of people that were dedicating their free time to enhance their community created this great attitude that was almost contagious! We refused to act like a bunch of strangers in one room, we were connected through this passion for space that we all shared, and by the challenges we were all trying to solve.
These people have impacted my life abundantly as advisers and as friends. I can’t thank them enough for making this amazing experience possible. I know that I won’t miss them because these are the mentors that will advise me in the future; these are the friends I will keep sharing my story with.