UMKC undergraduate student Kati Williams has been interning at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. She shared more about her work, her plans for the future, and advice she would give to other undergraduate SCE students!
What kind of work do you do as an intern at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center?
I assist in the software development and verification of the human rated space flight software for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS). The team I have been working with consists of 20 software developers during a critical release phase of the flight software. I use a tool called ARTEMIS-MAESTRO, which is a rocket simulator used for integration testing for the SLS.
During the first part of my internship, I was able to create a lab manual, which documents how to use the system for different software tests. I have also created a tool which analyzes the results of the flight software unit tests and outputs a simple one page summary. This helps the software developers by giving them a snapshot of the results rather than them having to dig through several pages of reports. Hilariously enough, I have also learned how to use a slide-rule as a side project.
What got you interested in this type of work?
Aerospace has always been interesting to me. I think it’s very important to continue to send people into space because of the technological advances that come from the space program. When I started my engineering career, I knew I wanted to work in an industry that I was passionate about, so NASA is a perfect fit for me.
How did you get connected to this internship?
This is my third summer at the Marshall Space Flight Center. This summer, I am here as an intern for Jacobs (a NASA contractor), but the first two internships I worked as an intern directly for NASA. For my first and second NASA internships, I applied through the “One Stop Shopping Initiative” (OSSI) website and had a nice recommendation letter written by a UMKC faculty member. My mentor during my second NASA internship worked for Jacobs and I was impressed by the company, so I asked him to put in a good word for me.
What have you learned from this experience?
This internship has given me insight into how complex software systems are developed. It’s interesting to see how small changes to one part of the system will affect another part because not everything goes according to plan 100% of the time. Being flexible and adaptable helped me as I progressed in my projects this summer. Learning how to take criticism gracefully was equally important.
Why do you think internships are important for undergraduate students?
School and the professional world are very different things. I think school is important for understanding the theory behind the processes used in the real world. I think internships are important because they help bridge the gap between theory and application and better prepare students to enter the job market.
What made you choose UMKC?
I was looking for an engineering school which was ABET accredited, had the degree I wanted, and was located near Kansas City. UMKC met all of my requirements.
What are your plans for the future?
I’m planning to graduate in the spring of 2018 and I will be looking for jobs working with satellites or embedded systems within the aerospace industry.
What advice do you have for other undergraduate SCE students?
The best advice ever given to me is from a UMKC faculty member. “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” Sometimes tasks seem monumental, but if they are broken down into smaller pieces they become much more manageable.