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“Now I’m interested in rocket science, and I’m interested in robotics.”

- Chris Garcia, Head of Design, Team 334



Christian Garcia

FIRST Head of Design at Brooklyn Tech, Gets Florida Space Institute Internship

by Loraine Kasprzak

How many kids dream about becoming an astronaut or working with the NASA Space Program? This past summer, Chris Garcia, a student at Brooklyn Tech and FIRST Robotics team member, had an opportunity that many students can only dream of: he interned at the Florida Space Institute  and got to experience the space program firsthand.

Chris and several other students not only had the opportunity to research hybrid rockets, they built and tested a scale model rocket engine based on their work. They watched the launch of the Space Shuttle from Cocoa Beach and the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Simulation and Training and biomedical laboratories. They got to have some fun too with field trips to Epcot Center and Sea World.

Chris and I chatted via email recently about his summer experience.

Chris, how did you get connected with the NASA internship?

Around April, a summer internship program was announced for students who are interested in biomedical, science, engineering, and technology at Brooklyn Tech. I was highly interested and I emailed the CEO of the program, Dr. Sat Bhattacharya. He interviewed me, asking my grade level, my accomplishments, interests, etc. I told him I was a junior at Brooklyn Tech, a member of the robotics team for 3 years (and counting). I explained to him my leadership skills as head of design, showed him pictures of Inventor files, parts and renderings, and showed him my transcript and my resume. A few weeks after the interview, Dr Sat called me telling me I am now part of the Harlem Children Society and with the permission of my parents, the society will send me to work with NASA.

How did being a FIRST team member help you get your internship?

The skills I've gain from FIRST - leadership, communication, organization, business, etc., enabled me to be a highly competitive and highly viewed student. If I was not part of the robotics team, I may have not been selected to be part of this program.

What happened after you accepted the internship?

I left to Florida on July 2nd with three other students. Dr Sat had sent two college students
before us a month before us so that they would be well established in the area and could take care of us. We didn't work directly with NASA, we worked for a contracted company under NASA called SPACEHAB that designs and develops NASA's payloads and satellites. We worked with Dr. John Brandenburg on Hybrid Rockets and did research in plasma force fields, ball lighting, Mars, MET thrusters, and space. After spending a month down there, we arrived back in New York on August 5th. On August 17th, the six interns (including me) presented our research.

Besides all the technical knowledge you gained, what did you learn?

: When I joined the program, I was hoping to find an answer to what field of science I’m interested in. I’m interested in a lot of engineering courses - civil and mechanical. Now I’m interested in rocket science, and I’m interested in robotics. It opened up more fields to me.

Do you have photos or videos that you can share from your internship?
A: Yes, we took many photos during our Florida visit, and also have videos of our experiments. All of these are posted online.

Q: What is your role on Brooklyn Tech’s FIRST Robotics team?

I've been apart of FIRST for 3 years; my first year in FIRST LEGO League, and my other two years in FIRST Robotics Competition. I am now Head of Design. It is my role to lead, manage and train a group of students in using AutoDesk Inventor to help design the robot. The design division creates models of the robot on the computer using Inventor and foam board models. This gives the team a preview of how the robot will function and ways to determine arising problems before the robot is physically built.

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