Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority Internship Program
The General Assembly has determined that there exists within the Commonwealth a need to disseminate knowledge pertaining to scientific and technological research and development among public and private entities; to promote Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education as well as the promotion of industrial and economic development through the development and promotion of the commercial space flight industry. As such, the Assembly is enabling legislation to support this focus in STEM education support.
Virginia Space has been a strong contributor to Virginia STEM education on the Eastern Shore. Our objective is to contribute in building regional talent within the aerospace community through our summer internship program. In our efforts to support the growth and development of future employees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, we have incorporated an internship program into the Virginia Space Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport facility since 2010.
Our intern program first started in 2010 with offering opportunities to two rising college Juniors. After successfully completing a 12-week stay, Walter Taraila from the University of Maryland and Joel Wallace from Virginia Tech returned in 2011 for a second 12-week opportunity as rising Seniors. Upon graduation, both gentlemen became full time employees, working as part of our Engineering team in 2012. Virginia Space formalized the internship program in 2014 into an annual 12-week program, fostering both engineering and technical growth within the industry.
Since inception, interns enrolled in our engineering program are preparing to enter their final year of their engineering course of study. Those selected gain valuable exposure to day-to-day operations of a launch pad and work with a highly experienced team ranging from entry level engineers to thirty-year plus veterans of the Space Shuttle program. Overseen by our Chief Engineer, interns are required to participate in a final capstone project of their choice and experience a possible employment opportunity to return as part of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport team.
Interns enrolled in our technical program are second year students or graduates from the Eastern Shore Community College, with education and certifications in various trade skills. They are engaged in launch pad logistic support, CAD drafting, and working with the cryogenic fueling system. The overarching goal is to continue to promote development in trade skills within the aerospace industry and experience the vast complexities of hands on launch pad operations. Led by veterans of the Space Shuttle program, interns work in partnership with the Engineering, Quality, and Safety teams, and participate in a final capstone project of their choice.
In 2014, Virginia Space opened six intern positions; three positions in engineering and three technical positions. At the end of the program, James Haley and Alex Chrisman from the Eastern Shore Community College joined our team and continue to work under our Systems Operations group. Bryce Yarbrough from Old Dominion University, and Regan Smith from the University of Maryland joined our Engineering team after their graduation in 2015. The remaning engineering intern from Penn State University, pursued employment opportunities in aerospace with the Department of Defense. Our third technical intern returned to the Eastern Shore Community College, eventually earning an additonal and future internship with NASA.
2015 marked another successful year within the program. Two technical internship opportunities were made available, two engineering opportunities opened for rising college Seniors, and Virginia Space funded an internship opportunity for NASA on the Eastern Shore. At the end of the 12-week period, Zach Pase and Wyatt Bridges from the Eastern Shore Community College became full time employees working with our Systems Operations group. Rising Senior Rickie Smith from Old Dominion University returned in 2016 as a full time member of our Engineering team after his graduation. The remaining intern from Virginia Commonwealth University pursued another opportunity within the automotive industry.
Our program has gained significant attention within the area and continues to attract talent in the Mid-Atlantic region. This year, we fielded 65 applicants for our engineering program alone, while the Eastern Shore Community College continues to see growth in demand for the opportunities we present as well. With the advancing progress of commercial space flight and the extension of operations at the International Space Station, the demand to gain hands-on experience continues to exceed our expectations year over year. The interns participating this year have raised the bar once again.
This year, as we prepared for the Antares’ return to flight mission, we were able to provide six internship opportunities; three in engineering and three technical. We also funded for the second consecutive year, an internship position for NASA on the Eastern Shore. Staten Longo from University of Virginia, Paige Pruce and Ryan McGuire from the University of Maryland, all rising Seniors, filled the openings as our Engineering Interns. Amanda Thomas, Charles Galloway, and Vincent Bailey, all three graduates from the Eastern Shore Community College, were selected as our Technician Interns. Upon completion of this year’s program, Vincent is now a full time employee of our Pad Support team, Amanda is a full time employee on our Quality team, and Charles is a full time employee with our Systems Operations team.
2017 was an exceptional year for the growth of our program. We incorporated six Engineering interns and three technical interns. Our continued support for the internship position with NASA marked our third year in expanding learning opportunities in the Aerospace Community on the Eastern Shore.
This year, our program included a combination of rising Juniors and Seniors. Emily Bujold from Morehead State University, Thomas Buas and Tricia Patel from the University of Maryland, Benjamin Feldman, Jake Singh, and Rebecca Towler from the University of Virginia added to our most diverse team of Engineering Interns since the program’s inception.
We also continued our partnership with the Eastern Shore Community College with Todd Crippen, Dylan Lewis, and Kyle Linton as our three Technician Interns. Upon completion of the program, Todd Crippen came aboard our organization enthusiastically as a full time employee with our Systems Operations team.
With the growth of commercial space flight and exploration of new opportunities in the aerospace industry, we are excited to see what 2018 and beyond holds in store for our program and future talent. We look forward to our continued relationship with the regional colleges, our dedication to Virginia’s STEM education, and the new ideas this future generation in aerospace holds.
To learn more information about our program offering, contact Brenda Neckvatal, Director of Human Resources at 757-440-4020.