Summer interns at NASA explored green careers

Nov 3rd, 2011 | By | Category: 23-2: Climate Commitment, Community & Partnerships, Tribal College News

LAUNCHING NEW CAREERS. Tribal college interns at NASA are pictured with the Atlantis Space Shuttle (and an astronaut bear) at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo by Joseph Tompkins

A team of students from the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA, Santa Fe, NM) went to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida for 10 weeks last summer as part of a NASA internship program arranged by the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC).

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for them,” according to AIHEC CEO Carrie Billy (Diné). The students who participated were David Atkins, Kaylene Big Knife, Louva Hartwell, Upton Ethelbah III, Zach Nelson, and Katrina Montoya.

The team worked with their NASA mentor, Priscilla Elfrey. “This experience opened the door to new ideas of how we might increase the numbers of American Indian students working in modeling and simulation,” she says. “This is an apparently recession-proof field with many openings for educated workers. This ‘green’ technology builds on storytelling and sensory awareness to produce memorable, interactive, problem solving experiences—increasingly visual. It seems to fit the American Indian culture.”

The students helped Elfrey create materials for an international interuniversity modeling and simulation event next March in Orlando. (See learned about computer programming, met innovators involved in both simulation and digital media, and produced posters.

“The students excelled at self-structuring their work and building on one another’s skills and interests. They picked up a lot of information about space, modeling, and simulation,” Elfrey says.

Al Kuslikis, AIHEC STEM associate, and Nikki Santos, advocacy associate, promoted the internship program to students and found someone at Kennedy who would work with them as a team.

For more information, contact Al Kuslikis ( or Nikki Santos ( or at (703) 504-9829.


SKC SCIENCE WHIZ. NASA Marshall Space Flight Center intern and Salish Kootenai College student Cody Sifford (Diné) spent ten weeks based at the National Space Science and Technology Center. His project, titled, "Fire Risk Probability Method Using Soil Moisture and Other Parameters for Management Application," won first place in the Science Division poster competition. Photo by Blackfeet Community College student Noel Stewart

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