| 03.24.2018

Vandals in the sky — University of Idaho students earn valuable opportunity through NASA internships

This September, NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE), took to the skies in hopes of gathering information on the lunar atmosphere. LADEE reached the moon’s orbit Oct. 6 and according to the Ames Research Center, it will remain in space for about 100 days.

One hundred days is roughly the length of summer vacation, and in the summer of 2012, University of Idaho students collaborated, with NASA researchers to help get LADEE off the ground.

Senior Mechanical Engineering student Ingrid Kooda helped design some of LADEE’s hardware and tested the satellite throughout the design process.

“I sampled materials, see if it fractured and then analyze how it fractured,” Kooda said. “I tested some of the actual flight hardware, testing manufacturing, make sure it’s up to par. I also did some analysis on that.”

Kooda also designed special washers for LADEE, which were unable to move in order to prevent damage to the satellite.

“I developed special washers for LADEE, we needed something that wouldn’t turn so I was able to manufacture that and it actually ended up on the finished project,” Kooda said.

Kooda was not the only UI student who was given the opportunity. Kevin Ramus, an electrical engineering graduate student, also assisted on the project. Ramus worked on many projects testing components and making sure everything was  working, LADEE among them.

“I was part time on LADEE and part time on something else, but basically I tested LADEE’s test equipment,” Ramus said. “Basically, I made sure all the electrical connections were correct on the ground, so when we activated them it didn’t fry anything.”

Kooda and Ramus discovered the opportunity to work with NASA in different ways, but both said it was a great opportunity. Kooda had already received a scholarship through NASA, which translated into her connection with the organization.
” I already received a scholarship from them, so my foot was already in the door,” Kooda said. “Internships are really good, especially for engineers. We learn a lot of theory in class and they allow you to see how that plays out in the real world. There is just a lot you can learn on the job and not in the classroom.”

Ramus said he discovered the opportunity at UI through a class he was taking.

“There is a class on campus called near space engineering, it’s a one credit course and I was heavily involved with that,” Ramus said. “Our professor had a lot of NASA contacts and he sort of helped me with that, he knew someone on the LADEE project. So I kind of got involved through that class.”

Ramus said he really enjoyed working on LADEE and the scale of the project is unlike things he had previously worked on. He said it provided a great opportunity to see the inner workings of such a large undertaking.

“Everything else I had done was all small stuff,” Ramus said. ” LADEE was a large-scale project. It was nice to see how it was controlled and how communication between scientists, engineers and technicians take place. It was great to see how a large scale project like that moves along.”

Justin Ackerman can be reached at arg-news@uidaho.edu

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