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Sky's the Limit for Student Heading to NASA

Sky's the Limit for Student Heading to NASA

12 May 14

DakotaStory by Steve Lathrop, Albany Democrat-Herald business reporter
Photo by Mark Ylen, Democrat-Herald photographer

May 12, 2014

Dakota Peck’s summer is probably going to be the envy of many of his fellow students at Linn-Benton Community College.

Peck, a sophomore at LBCC from Susanville, California, will be headed east for an internship with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. That’s right, NASA.

“Who hasn’t heard of NASA,” said Peck, 21.

Peck was encouraged by LBCC computer programming instructor Parker Swanson. He directed Peck to a list of NASA internship opportunities posted on his door.

“He (Swanson) told me about the internship opportunities and said that they included IT programs,” Peck said. “I did the paperwork and got the job.”

Peck filled out his application online just after the first of the year, starting with questionnaires. He recruited several letters of recommendation to go along with his application — and then he waited.

In mid-April, about two months after applying, he was notified of his selection.

“It’s not an internship through the school. Everything is through NASA and it’s open to everybody,” Peck said. “Something like this is going to look pretty special on a resume.”

Peck is studying computer science and information technology at LBCC. He originally came to Oregon to attend Oregon State but decided LBCC was a better alternative for him.

He’ll be able to apply his skills during the internship. Peck will work at the data center at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, a research facility in Greenbelt, Maryland. He will be an assistant for more than two months.

Peck will leave for the internship in about two weeks. The 10-week program begins June 2 and runs through August 8.

“I’ll be working on different tasks with the servers around the center,” Peck said. “I’ve spoken to them briefly so all the introductions are out of the way.”

He said he’ll need to get used to living on the East Coast since he’s never been farther east than Reno, Nevada.

“I’m anxious. Finding housing is something I’m working on now but it has been a struggle. A student from the University of Portland is also interning there, so we may be able to work out a roommate deal,” Peck said.

He gets a stipend during his stay, and he plans to figure out the transit system to get to and from work.

Peck will also get a chance to visit some places he’s always wanted to go. Greenbelt is just northeast of Washington, D.C., so Peck expects he will travel there.

“Visiting the Smithsonian and so many other places there will be fun,” he said.

The real excitement will be the work.

“I’ll be getting my feet wet on all sorts of different systems,” he said.

Peck has been working at ATI Wah Chang for about year helping with technical support there. He said instructor Dave Becker has helped him a lot during his enrollment at LBCC, working with him to prepare for the internship and also helping him get the job at Wah Chang.

When he returns, he will deliver a presentation to the Oregon Space Grant Consortium in November that will detail his experience.

There’s a possibility the internship will lead to more. Peck said NASA has year-long programs which he may apply for.

“Well, pun intended, the sky’s the limit with NASA,” Peck said. “It’s going to be great.