Works at NASA as an Intern
My name is Edwin Betady, I was born in Hollywood, California. When I was 8 years old my family moved to the central valley of California. I grew up in a small agrarian town named Turlock, where the county’s popular Saturday pastime is competitive sports. In Turlock, we are proud of our athletic heritage—it is the home of the famous Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback from the 49ers! This is where I’m from, now I’ll tell you where I’ve been.
To begin, a challenge I faced in my educational career has been finding that spark or interest to drive my education. I felt I had that spark through my elementary school years. I was accepted into a magnet program which recruited students with high state exam scores in STEM subjects. Here, I was exposed to rocketry, aircraft simulators, biological sciences and chemistry at an early age. These demonstrations fascinated me, they made me want to enhance my educational journey in these technical fields. Unfortunately, the program ended after junior high and I was back in the in the public school system, where I didn’t feel nearly as challenged or intrigued. At this time, my main focus shifted to football. In that hazy time after graduating from high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do in life.
Working at the San Francisco International Airport for Homeland Security reignited my interest in airplanes and space. That initial academic spark came back when surrounded by rockets, propulsion, loud, roaring engines, high speed, precision testing, and space exploration. I would sit on the tarmac during my lunch breaks and ponder these things watching the jets takeoff and land; it reminded me of when I was a child and my father and I would sit on the hood of his car and we would watch the airplanes land and takeoff from LAX. Who would have ever thought I had it right from the start?
So after all the time that had passed, I decided right then and there to go to college. I left my job to become a student. It was a difficult transition, and I questioned it often. I kept questioning until my instructor, Bob Davies, posted an informational notice about the NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars Program (NCAS). I saw NASA and community college in the same sentence and felt as if my fate had aligned.
When I was accepted into the NCAS program, it was the best news I had ever received. My curiosity increased in electrical systems in space and I learned a great deal about Mars during the program experience. It fueled my passion for subjects I was studying both in the classroom and through NCAS. I took the challenge seriously and wanted to learn everything I could about NASA. After the online session, I was accepted to be part of a three day onsite experience at JPL, where Curiosity was built. I got goose bumps, and felt for the first time in my life, the door had finally opened to show me what I was meant to do. I saw amazing projects in action, met enthusiastic employees, and was introduced to a positive work environment that I would love to join. Even when compared to the private sector, I am still motivated by the thrill of exploration and the advancement of technology. NASA works for the people of this country to build frontiers, to imagine the impossible. NASA was where I wanted to be; it had been in my heart since I was a child. When this passion revealed itself to me, I was inspired.
After experiencing this moment of enlightenment, I would think about it every day. NASA was and still is my main thought when I woke up and my last thought before I went to sleep. I took my college classes very seriously and was persistent when it came to applying for internships. I saw this as an opportunity to take action: I noticed my peers needed similar motivation. I founded an organization called the Merced College Science, Math and Engineering Club (SME) and made the advancement of STEM at local high school campuses the primary objective. We have expanded and are now working with Merced County to open the first STEM high school in the district. SME expanded to two campuses and will begin developing smaller clubs within additional local high schools, extending opportunities and assisting those who want to succeed. We actively promote STEM scholarships and are developing a micro-community on campus that never existed before. So, after working on this project at my college, I returned to NASA with a stronger commitment than ever before.
After proactively applying to internships, I was hired and placed with the Aeromechanics branch at NASA Ames. It has been an amazing experience and I want it to last forever. I am working on four different projects and have experienced and grown so much in my knowledge base. I know this is where I want and need to be. I have been working on a project with my team that will be sent to the ISS in February 2015 if qualifications are met. I coordinated a private tour of my work facility and now my SME club members are motivated! My professors informed me they are being swarmed with requests for reference letters for OSSI (the NASA internship application system) which I consider a win!
The advice I can give other students is this: never give up, always ask yourself “why not?” Commit to a goal and it will come to life. Never say you failed. There are only temporary setbacks. I recommend working with STEM organizations, getting involved with the scientific community, and most of all, be persistent. To work for NASA, you have to work to achieve your dreams. You must earn your place in this outstanding organization. People all over the world want to work for NASA; make it your job to stand out. Stay committed, and the rest will fall into place.