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
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 Floridaâ€™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
Q: Chris, how did you get connected with the NASA
A: 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.
Q: How did
being a FIRST team member help you get your internship?
A: 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.
Q: What happened after you accepted the internship?
A: 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.
Q: Besides all the technical knowledge you gained,
what did you learn?
A: When I joined the program, I was hoping to find
an answer to what field of science Iâ€™m interested
in. Iâ€™m interested in a lot of engineering courses
- civil and mechanical. Now Iâ€™m interested in
rocket science, and Iâ€™m interested in robotics. It
opened up more fields to me.
Q: 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 Techâ€™s FIRST Robotics team?
A: 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.