Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Mark at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory

My name is Mark Johnson.  This is my second summer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. I really enjoyed the internship last summer but wanted something more applicable to Mechanical Engineering. I receieved an internship through Gaj Birur, a thermal engineer that led us through a student tour of his lab last summer. So if looking for an internship, be sure to contact people directly who you are interested in working for.

I have calculated the refrigerant volume and surface area of the tubing in the Mars Science Laboratory Heat Rejection System. I used a 3D CAD program called NX and went through hundreds of part files to do this, and then created a "component group" that allows other users to open up the whole system on different computers.

I also did tests to determine the behavior of heat transfer fluids when cooled past their freezing point. I used a chiller running refrigerant to chill liquids with freezing points up to -60 degrees Celsius and liquid nitrogen at -180 deg. C for lower freezing points. Gas nitrogen was added to a closed container to keep the air inside the testing box moisture-free. A camcorder took video and it was shown in high speed to provide a visual observation of phase change.

My wife and daughter came down with me to Los Angeles and so during my time away from work I tried going to accesible tourist areas to show them LA. There is an amazing amount of stuff to do here, as long as you can stand the bumper to bumper traffic that occurs any hour of the day. We went to the following places:
  • Long Beach
  • Hollywood
  • Beverly Hills and Bel Air - including the Fresh Prince of Bel Air house
  • Griffith Observatory
  • Honduras Kitchen - honduras restaurant
  • Queen Mary - anchored 1930's cruise boat
  • Mountain Lakes resort
  • Pasadena City Hall - very ornate, very cool
  • Old Town Pasadena - older shopping area
  • South Pasadena Farmers Market
  • Hubble IMAX 3D at Pacific Science Center
  • Huntington Gardens
  • Taking Shae on a tour of JPL
  • Venice Beach and the pier
  • Union station
  • Six Flags Hurricane Harbor
  • Getty Museum
  • In-N-Out Burger (Order "Animal Style") and other cool restaurants
  • Little Tokyo (Best Bento Box EVER!)
  • Diddy Riese's cookie ice cream sandwhich
  • The pleasant, uncrowded, beautiful passageways where I spent hours under calm meditation called THE LA FREEWAY SYSTEM!!!!
What an awesome time!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Three Weeks

It's been three weeks here at Langley and I've been having a great time! I am the only student working on my project, which is kind of sad considering everyone else I've been talking to get to work more in groups and get to meet other interns. On the other hand, I am getting a lot of hands on experience and feel extremely fortunate to be working with the engineers in the Carbon-Carbon lab.

So far, we haven't gotten terribly much done on my project due to materials arriving late, etc., but in the meantime I've been learning different mechanical testing for materials: tensile, compression, etc. I feel like I'm shadowing rather than getting much done yet, but when we have some panels made I'll be trained to be able to get some interesting information about a material that I created. It doesn't really sound exciting, but then again, I get to break stuff. Who else gets to do that purposefully?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Welcome to the NASA Langley Research Center! Two and a half weeks into the hot and humid summer in Hampton, Virginia. I've spent my time familiarizing myself with the area (limited by transportation, but taking every opportunity for exploration) and my work in Garry Quall's Automation Lab in building 1220. I'm working on a team of about nine students (grad and undergrad) from Western Kentucky, MIT, Minnesota, Virgina, and Virgina Tech. The goal for the summer: Set-up and demonstration of an indoor and outdoor automated multi-vehicle UAV environment...details and progress updates in future posts!

I will make note in this first post about the attitude of people who work at Langley. Everyone, from researchers and scientists to the cashier in the cafeteria, is friendly and approachable. I've been very pleased to be among great scientist and engineers who are willing to share friendly conversation. It seems that everyone, including myself, feels very fortunate to be at NASA contributing to space research and our nation's effort to understand the universe...one planet at a time!

Amanda (Western Kentucky University) and I work on programming an Arduino microcontroller to interface to the DC motors of an RC car. Goal: autonomous vehicle maneuvers given real-time GPS coordinates.