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John Tyler Community College Students Participate in NASA Research Experiences

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Holly Walker
Public Relations Manager
804-594-1530
hwalker@jtcc.edu

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Heather Busch
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Released on September 12, 2019

Miranda Beaudry (Photo Courtesy Virginia Space Grant Consortium) Callie Ellsworth (Photo Courtesy Virginia Space Grant Consortium) Tristan McMahon (Photo Courtesy Virginia Space Grant Consortium)

CHESTER and MIDLOTHIAN, Va. – Four John Tyler Community College engineering and computer science students put what they learned in the classroom to work this summer after being selected to participate in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Takes Flight at Virginia’s Community Colleges initiative. The program, a partnership between the Virginia Space Grant Consortium, NASA Langley Research Center, and NASA Wallops Flight Facility, provides Virginia community college students with the opportunity to gain hands-on research experience. Tyler’s Miranda Beaudry of Waverly, Callie Ellsworth of Richmond, Tristan McMahon of Chesterfield, and Holly Sheppard of Hopewell spent 10-weeks this summer on-site at one of Virginia’s NASA facilities, working side-by-side with NASA researchers on real-world projects. 

Beaudry said the news of her selection for STEM Takes Flight stunned her. She said as she read the e-mail, “I had a sudden realization that I had made a decision that changed the course of my life and career path.” Beaudry, who wants to pursue a career in chemical engineering with a focus on materials science, said her summer research project at the NASA Langley Research Center allowed her to work with chemical and materials science researchers on testing the durability of coatings that prevent and decrease the level of ice that adheres to the surface of aircraft wings. She said during the program, she learned about scientific study design, scientific data analysis, group collaboration, professional etiquette, networking, lab skills, mechanical testing instrumentation and more. Best of all, she earned another opportunity: an extended internship position at NASA Langley. “For the 16-week Fall 2019 semester, I’ll be working through a NASA Internships, Fellowships & Scholars program with the University Space Research Association,” said Beaudry. During her internship, she will continue her coursework at Tyler and her work on the low-ice adhesion coating research project.

Ellsworth, who is an avid lover of science and nature, is interested in working in aerospace engineering. So, she was intrigued by the opportunities offered through the STEM Takes Flight program. With the encouragement of a Tyler faculty member, she decided to apply. When she learned the news of her selection, she said she was ecstatic because she hopes to one day work for NASA. Her summer research project took place at NASA Langley. “My project’s purpose was to test a method of analysis to accurately measure the performance of airplane energy state predictors, which is a technology currently in development,” said Ellsworth. The broader goal of this work, she said, is to improve commercial aviation safety by increasing the situational awareness of the flight crew. “This internship was an incredible opportunity,” said Ellsworth. "I have learned so much about data analysis, the many different things you can do as an engineer, what is currently happening at NASA, and how that work is preparing for future missions." 

Artificial intelligence and its applications fascinate McMahon. He began exploring computer science when he was a child, and for years, he has been teaching himself about it. His interest was so strong he decided to formally study the subject and pursue a career in it. “I aspire to pursue a Ph.D. in computer science and work in the field of machine learning and artificial intelligence,” he said. McMahon also has an interest in aerospace and aeronautics. When he found out about STEM Takes Flight, he applied. At the NASA Langley Research Center, McMahon’s project involved research related to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). “The project was to characterize wind information at NASA’s UAV range, called the CERTAIN range, through the use of optics,” said McMahon. “The ultimate goal is to use optics to measure the wake vortices the UAVs create.” The work gave McMahon the opportunity to put his computer science skills to work. “I programmed in MATLAB to do data work and Python to control how the instrument logged the data,” he said.

To learn more about the STEM Takes Flight program, visit http://vsgc.odu.edu/stemtakesflight/. To find out more about Tyler’s engineering and computer science programs or the college’s other majors, go to www.jtcc.edu/majors.

John Tyler Community College offers more than 75 majors that provide pathways to careers in high-demand fields; transfer opportunities to four-year colleges and universities; and industry credentials and licensures. The college, with campuses in Chester and Midlothian, online classes, and off-campus classrooms, served more than 14,000 students during the 2018-19 academic year. It also assisted more than 7,000 learners through its workforce development division, Community College Workforce Alliance, a partnership between Tyler and Reynolds community colleges

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