NASA Academy Research Project:
Integrated Cryogenic Fluid Study for Life Support Systems on the Moon
Dr. David W. Plachta
As someone who loves to reminisce about the past and look forward to the future, it has taken a long time for me to realize that the most important time in one’s life is the present. I have had many great experiences in life so far, and often set goals for the future, yet I know that this is my only chance to live this current moment it time. Time is linear, it has no loops, so each moment must be memorable and without regret. Time should never be wasted, but either enjoyed or invested working toward an ultimate goal where dreams become reality.
Academics and Research
During my freshman year at WVU, I was not completely convinced a career in engineering was for me. Growing up, I was told by many I was meant to be an engineer so I took the advice of my elders not knowing exactly what was in store. I had always excelled in problem solving and math so it was a natural fit. In addition to that, I always tried to explore, whether it be the wooded area behind my house as a child or the forces that govern our physical world. I also enjoyed optimizing things and was very interested in aerodynamic designs of all types of vehicles. Soon after my first exposure to Mechanical and especially Aerospace Engineering, I found out those who knew me were on to something. I knew that it both fit my strengths and fulfilled my interests.
As I progressed in my college career, my interests were drawn more to the Aerospace degree, especially the space travel aspect, while still continuing my pursuit of both degrees. In my Junior year, I joined the Microgravity Research Team at WVU. This team was formed to conduct research through a NASA program called the Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunities Program (RGSFOP). The team submitted a proposal entitled “Investigation of Viscous and Capillary Fingering Through a Hele-Shaw Cell in Microgravity” to the program for review and our experiment was one of those accepted. We researched our topic, then designed and constructed an experiment apparatus to test the phenomena in question. We took the experiment to Johnson Space Center where it was tested in Microgravity conditions aboard the Weightless Wonder Aircraft. The data collected was analyzed and a report was submitted. This experience greatly enhanced all aspects of my research skills. It also honed my teamwork and leadership skills. What intrigued me most about this project was the space applications and working with NASA.
In the summer of 2008 I worked as an intern for Pratt and Whitney Engine Services in Bridgeport, WV. The company performed repairs and overhauls to a wide array of small to medium aircraft engines made by Pratt and Whitney. As an engineering intern my job consisted of designing and aiding in the construction of various engine part testing apparatuses. I also assisted engineers in writing repair instructions and gathering data to make decisions on limits for reparability for certain damages.
I have always excelled in academics and because of this taken great pride in my education. School is number one in my life but it is far from my entire life. I participate in many extracurricular activities many of which are through the engineering college. I am a member of the WVU Student chapter of the American Institute of Aeronautical Engineers and the WVU Flying Club. Also, I was this past semester’s Corresponding Secretary for the WVU chapter of Tau Beta Pi, the Engineering Honor Society. In this post, I helped organize a district conference for other local chapters held at our school. I also served as our social coordinator organizing intramural activities, meetings, and cookouts. I also love sports and participate in a basketball intramural team (2009 University-wide Champs!) and the WVU Ultimate Frisbee Club Team. I also love to meet new people and challenge myself to new things. Currently, I am focusing on Spanish and piano.
Educational and Professional Objectives
I have many goals I would like to accomplish in my lifetime, many of which are far-fetched, but would be very fulfilling. I plan to enter graduate school in the fall of 2010 where I can get involved in space related research. After schooling, I wish to help send humans safely into space especially uncharted territories, whether that be with NASA or some other endeavor. Further, I want to help make our society aware of why space exploration is important and why we need to invest in it. Mostly, I want to be successful, but success is too often measured in the possessions one accumulates. To me, the lives one touches, the attitude one spreads, the changes they make to their world, and the experiences they have greatly outweigh their collections.