High School Interns At Space X

At Hawthorne-based SpaceX, high school students learn to reach for the stars

Hundreds of standout college engineering students launch their careers each year as SpaceX interns, working long hours beside some of the country’s best rocket engineers at the trailblazing Hawthorne commercial spaceflight company.

But only a few high school students get the same opportunity.

A handful of teens are chosen annually from Hawthorne’s three high schools to walk through the glass doors at 1 Rocket Road and join the visionary team at Space Exploration Technologies Corp.’s headquarters.

They aren’t tasked with building rockets, of course. But they are assigned work that’s crucial to keeping the round-the-clock company running smoothly. They’re stationed in the heart of the operation, in the information-technology lab, where they troubleshoot computer problems and maintain employee work stations.

“We try to have close partnerships with Hawthorne high schools,” said community outreach manager Lilian Haney. “We treat it like our regular college intern program. The students have to submit resumes and cover letters.”

Teachers recommend their best science and engineering students from Da Vinci science, design and communications charter schools, Hawthorne Math & Science Academy and Hawthorne High School. SpaceX then chooses a few of those hopefuls each year.

Inside the giant gleaming white rocket-building warehouse, students learn about the real world from the perspective of a company focused on expanding human access to Mars and beyond.

“I find it amazing that humans can send stuff to space and how far we’ve come,” said Vincent Ornelas, a new graduate of Da Vinci Schools in Hawthorne who snagged one of the coveted spots this summer. The 19-year-old is about to start college classes at Loyola Marymount University studying mechanical engineering.

When he began his SpaceX internship, Ornelas said he’d built robots at school but they were just toys. Working among top-notch engineers taught him that, above all, success takes a lot of work.

“I had no idea what I was getting into. I knew they wanted to go to Mars but I learned there’s a lot to that. It’s a real situation here. It’s important.

“On the robotics team at school, we went from designing a robot to making a finished product in six weeks. I have a couple mentors who work here. There’s a lot of structure behind what’s done.”

There are three Da Vinci Schools students, including Ornelas, working as interns there now. Natasha Morse, the school’s director of real-world learning, said students covet the spots.


“Students are just always so excited to be in the environment of SpaceX,” Morse said. “They feel like an adult employee. It really motivates them for college.”

Rachael Tucker, manager of the company’s high school interns, said she looks for candidates who are great students and eager to learn.

“Most of them are in awe of the sheer volume of work. It can be a little overwhelming,” Tucker said. “But most are eager to go out and explore and learn what they can. This job really gets them out of their shells. You can’t be shy here.”

Interns participate in weekly classes about the company’s specialties — complex electrical hardware and software built from the ground up, computer science, mathematical modeling, rocket manufacturing, structural engineering and launch pad infrastructure.

The challenges are constant. Since the inaugural launch of the Falcon 9 in 2010, SpaceX has suffered crashes, an explosion, and aborted and delayed launches. But there were more successes than failures and, last year, the company became the first to bring a rocket back to Earth from orbit intact.

SpaceX continues to grow rapidly and is increasing the number of launches as it works toward creating a near-perfect reusable rocket. Reusability, company founder Elon Musk believes, is the key to expanding access to space.

Musk, who also founded Tesla Motors — which has a design studio next door to SpaceX in Hawthorne — and now owns SolarCity, among other ventures, regularly works at the SpaceX office’s open-air cubicles and engineering and testing labs.

Molly Mettler, 19, has been interning at SpaceX for two years, and hasn’t had a full conversation with the famous inventor-engineer-entrepreneur, but has heard him speak at lectures.

“He’s really smart,” she said, adding that Musk is one of the topics her friends usually ask about, along with what the rockets and work environment are like.

Mettler recently started college at UC Davis, where she hopes to mesh her love of engineering with animal science. Veterinary medicine often lags behind modern advances, she said, and there is room for engineering innovations in fields like prosthetics.

She started her internship after her sophomore year but has continued to return because she enjoys the work. The experience she got fixing computers also landed her a part-time job at college.

“It’s a very fast-paced company that’s always constantly moving forward and changing,” Mettler said. “In a sense, your work is never finished and the time pressure makes problems more difficult.”

Day to day, she gets to watch the rockets and Dragon capsules being built, piece by piece. And she can hobnob with the engineers to learn more about their cutting-edge creations. New spacecraft can be seen at all stages of development on the work floor, attended by teams of workers. A cafeteria that looks over the operations provides low-cost, healthy meals.

In the midst of work stations, launch operations and feeds from the International Space Station are constantly monitored on giant screens in a glassed-in command center.

“I was definitely more to myself when I started,” she said. “As a high-schooler working at SpaceX, you want to live up to and exceed expectations.”

Students at the Barboza Space Center are looking to collaborate with other high school students that are working in related space intern  programs.  We are using distance learning and hands on programs at the Columbia Memorial Space Center.   We will come your letters of intent and student resumes.


Lockheed Martin will discuss Mars Base Camp

Bob Barboza is scheduled to present at the upcoming Mars Society Convention.  He will be talking about “The Occupy Mars Learning Adventures” STEAM++ programs and his special STEM Martian habitat projects with the Columbia Memorial Space Center in Downey, California. Lockheed Martin will discuss Mars Base Camp.
Lockheed Martin to Discuss Mars Base Camp & STEM Education at 2016 Mars Society Convention

Two senior representatives of Lockheed Martin, one of the world’s leading aerospace and global security companies, will participate in the 19th Annual International Mars Society Convention, scheduled for September 22-25, 2016 at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

With the recent announcement of Lockheed Martin’s Mars Base Camp plan, which would transport astronauts from Earth to a Mars-orbiting science laboratory by 2028, Tim Cichan, Space Exploration Architect for Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, will discuss the new mission proposal during a plenary talk on Friday, September 23rd at 10:30 am.

Mr. Cichan leads a multi-disciplinary team of engineers who work to help astronauts and robots visit the Moon, asteroids and Mars. Having joined Lockheed Martin in 2002, he has worked for both human spaceflight and commercial communication satellite teams on optimal trajectory design, mission analysis, subsystem development and systems engineering.

As a major supporter of STEM education, Lockheed Martin will also participate in the convention’s STEM Education & the Pathway to Mars panel discussion, set for Saturday, September 24th at 11:00 am. Representing the company will be Jennifer Mandel, Director of STEM Programs and the person responsible for Lockheed Martin’s Generation Beyond, an initiative to spark student interest in STEM and inspire the next generation of astronauts and engineers.

Previously, Ms. Mandel managed strategic communications for the transportation solutions line of business within Lockheed Martin Information Systems & Global Services. She also served as director of marketing communications at Infotech Strategies, a public relations firm in Washington, D.C.

For more information about the 2016 Mars Society Convention, including registration details and full program itinerary, please visit our web site.

Farming on Mars

What should we be thinking about before we start farming on Mars?

Bob Barboza, Occupy Mars Learning Adventures



Dear Bob,

A revolution is coming, one that will overcome challenges we can only imagine, powered by technology we won’t even see.

The next generation of life-changing technologies goes far beyond keyboards, screens, smart phones, cameras, watches, and hard drives. Join Microsoft’s Emerging Tech Virtual Summit: How IoT and Artificial Intelligence Can Transform the World and Your Organization to learn about the next wave of technology innovation.

Join us live online to hear from leading researchers and tech leaders as they explore what’s possible.

Check out the full agenda  ›
Summit Highlights
Farm Beats: Data Driven Farming
By 2050, the world will need to feed 9.7 billion people. Join Ranveer Chandra, Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research, as he explains how low-cost technology can make small-scale farming more productive to help meet the challenge of feeding a growing world.
Project Natick: Microsoft’s Underwater Datacenter
Fifty percent of us live near the coast. So why doesn’t our data? Hear Ben Cutler, Project Manager, Microsoft Research, discuss the development of undersea datacenters that offer rapid provisioning, lower costs, high responsiveness, and sustainability.
Emerging Tech in the Startup World
Whether it’s IoT, artificial intelligence, or any other innovative solution, many startups are looking to the technology horizon to solve tomorrow’s challenges. Tereza Nemessanyi, Microsoft Entrepreneur-in-Residence, will explore the exciting things startups and entrepreneurs are doing with emerging technology.

Afterschool STEM Programs

The Next Generation Science Standards: what do they mean for afterschool?

By Robert Abare

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) offer a powerful new vision for American science education for the 21st century. NGSS brings long-needed reforms to national and state K-12 science education standards, incorporating decades of new research on how students best learn science—by actively investigating topics and solving real-world problems, just like real scientists and engineers do!

So far, NGSS has been adopted by 16 states and the District of Columbia, as well as several individual schools and districts. If it hasn’t already, NGSS will soon be influencing how your students are expected to learn STEM. To help program providers understand how afterschool fits in to the NGSS, the Afterschool Alliance has developed a new guide, Getting Started with the Next Generation Science Standards.

Key components of our new NGSS guide

  • An explanation and history of how NGSS was developed and who the key collaborators were.
  • The underlying philosophy of the NGSS, which encourages kids to learn science by doing.
  • An overview of the standards themselves.
  • How afterschool providers can work with partner schools and use NGSS as a way to improve their practice.

Back in April, we hosted a webinar that digs into the research behind the standards, and offers a couple examples of how afterschool programs are thinking about NGSS. Watch the recording, and stay tuned for our next NGSS-related webinar in September.

In the meantime, we hope you’ll enjoy Getting Started with the Next Generation Science Standardsand share it with other educators who might find this resource useful!

Seymour Papert: Constructionist Learning

Professor Emeritus Seymour Papert, pioneer of constructionist learning, dies at 88

Seymour Papert.jpg

World-renowned mathematician, learning theorist, and educational-technology visionary was a founding faculty member of the MIT Media Lab. Watch Video

MIT Media Lab
August 1, 2016

Seymour Papert, whose ideas and inventions transformed how millions of children around the world create and learn, died Sunday at his home in East Blue Hill, Maine. He was 88.

Papert’s career traversed a trio of influential movements: child development, artificial intelligence, and educational technologies. Based on his insights into children’s thinking and learning, Papert recognized that computers could be used not just to deliver information and instruction, but also to empower children to experiment, explore, and express themselves. The central tenet of his Constructionist theory of learning is that people build knowledge most effectively when they are actively engaged in constructing things in the world. As early as 1968, Papert introduced the idea that computer programming and debugging can provide children a way to think about their own thinking and learn about their own learning.

“With a mind of extraordinary range and creativity, Seymour Papert helped revolutionize at least three fields, from the study of how children make sense of the world, to the development of artificial intelligence, to the rich intersection of technology and learning,” says MIT President L. Rafael Reif. “The stamp he left on MIT is profound. Today, as MIT continues to expand its reach and deepen its work in digital learning, I am particularly grateful for Seymour’s groundbreaking vision, and we hope to build on his ideas to open doors to learners of all ages, around the world.”

Papert’s life straddled several continents. He was born in 1928 in Pretoria, South Africa, and went on to study at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa, where he earned a BA in philosophy in 1949, followed by a PhD in mathematics three years later. He was a leading anti-apartheid activist throughout his university years.

Papert’s studies then took him overseas – first to Cambridge University in England from 1954-1958, where he focused on math research, earning his second PhD, then to the University of Geneva, where he worked with Swiss philosopher and psychologist Jean Piaget, whose theories about the ways children make sense of the world changed Papert’s view of children and learning.

From Switzerland, Papert came to the U.S., joining MIT as a research associate in 1963. Four years later, he became a professor of applied mathematics, and shortly after was appointed co-director of the Artificial Intelligence Lab (which later evolved into the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, or CSAIL) by its founding director Professor Marvin Minsky. Together, they wrote the 1969 book, “Perceptrons,” which marked a turning point in the field of artificial intelligence.

In 1985, Papert and Minsky joined former MIT President Jerome Wiesner and MIT Professor Nicholas Negroponte to become founding faculty members of the MIT Media Lab, where Papert led the Epistemology and Learning research group.

“Seymour often talked poetically, sometimes in riddles, like his famed phrase, ‘you cannot think about thinking without thinking about thinking about something,’” says Negroponte, the Media Lab’s co-founder and first director. “He did not follow rules or run by anybody else’s clock. I would say, in Papertian style, Seymour never needed to do what he said because when he said what he did, it was better.”

Seymour Papert, in a 1986 video, discusses computers in schools of the future.

Video: MIT Media Lab

Papert was among the first to recognize the revolutionary potential of computers in education. In the late 1960s, at a time when computers still cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, Papert came up with the idea for Logo, the first programming language for children. Children used Logo to program the movements of a “turtle” — either in the form of a small mechanical robot or a graphic object on the computer screen. In his seminal book “Mindstorms: Children, Computers and Powerful Ideas” (1980), Papert argued against “the computer being used to program the child.” He presented an alternative approach in which “the child programs the computer and, in doing so, both acquires a sense of mastery over a piece of the most modern and powerful technology and establishes an intimate contact with some of the deepest ideas from science, from mathematics, and from the art of intellectual model building.”

In collaboration with Sherry Turkle, the Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology at MIT, Papert explored how childhood objects have a deep influence on how and what children learn. In “Mindstorms,” Papert explained how he “fell in love with gears” as a child, and how he hoped to “turn computers into instruments flexible enough so that many children can each create for themselves something like what the gears were for me.”

Papert was the Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Education at MIT from 1974-1981. In 1985, he began a long and productive collaboration with the LEGO company, one of the first and largest corporate sponsors of the Media Lab. Papert’s ideas served as an inspiration for the LEGO Mindstorms robotics kit, which was named after his 1980 book. In 1989, the LEGO company endowed a chair at the Media Lab, and Papert became the first LEGO Professor of Learning Research. In 1998, after Papert became professor emeritus, the name of the professorship was modified, in his honor, to the LEGO Papert Professorship of Learning Research. The professorship was passed on to Papert’s former student and long-time collaborator, Mitchel Resnick, who continues to hold the chair today.

“For so many of us, Seymour fundamentally changed the way we think about learning, the way we think about children, and the way we think about technology,” says Resnick, who heads the Media Lab’s Lifelong Kindergarten research group.

In the late 1990s, Papert moved to Maine and continued his work with young people there, establishing the Learning Barn and the Seymour Papert Institute in 1999. He also set up a Learning Lab at the Maine Youth Center, where he worked to engage and inspire troubled youths who had received little support at home or school, and were grappling with drugs, alcohol, anger, or psychological problems. He was also integral to a Maine initiative requiring laptops for all 7th and 8th graders. Following the Maine initiative, Papert joined Negroponte and Alan Kay in 2004 to create the non-profit One Laptop per Child (OLPC), which produced and distributed low-cost, low-power, rugged laptops to the world’s poorest children. The organization produced more than 3 million laptops, reaching children in more than 40 countries. “Each of the laptops has Seymour inside,” says Negroponte.

Papert’s work inspired generations of educators and researchers around the world. He received numerous awards, including a Guggenheim fellowship in 1980, a Marconi International fellowship in 1981, and the Smithsonian Award from Computerworld in 1997. In 2001, Newsweek named him “one of the nation’s 10 top innovators in education.”

“Papert made everyone around him smarter — from children to colleagues — by encouraging people to focus on the big picture and zero in on the powerful ideas,” says CSAIL’s Patrick Winston, who took over as director of the AI Lab in 1972.

In addition to “Mindstorms,” Papert was the author of “The Children’s Machine” (1993) and “The Connected Family: Bridging the Digital Generation Gap” (1996). As an emeritus professor, Papert continued to write many articles and advise governments around the world on technology-based education. In 2006, while in Vietnam for a conference on mathematics education, he suffered a serious brain injury when struck by a motor scooter in Hanoi.

Papert is survived by his wife of 24 years, Suzanne Massie, a Russia scholar with whom he collaborated on the Learning Barn and many international projects; his daughter, Artemis Papert; three stepchildren, Robert Massie IV, Susanna Massie Thomas, and Elizabeth Massie; and two siblings, Alan Papert and Joan Papert. He was previously married to Dona Strauss, Androula Christofides Henriques, and Sherry Turkle.

The Media Lab will host a celebration of the life and work of Seymour Papert in the coming months.