My First Launch!

If there is anything to love about Daytona Beach, it’s how amazingly close it is to the Space Coast! You can faintly see the launches from campus, but if you really want the best view, the hour’s drive to Cape Canaveral makes launch viewing even better. Despite how close it is, I have never taken the opportunity to drive down for a front row seat. Thanks to Space Tango, I didn’t have choice – and I was completely okay with it!

I’m interning remotely from the Lexington, KY-based company as their marketing and public relations specialist, so it was only befitting to make sure I was there for the launch of SpaceX CRS-12. This launch carried not only 12 customer research payloads, but an additional TangoLab facility to double available research capacity for Space Tango Customers.

The launch was scheduled for August 14th at approximately 12:31 PM EDT on launchpad 39A, historically know for being used for the first Saturn V launch (Apollo 4) and other Apollo missions including Apollo 11. Needless to say, I was excited. Not only was it my first launch, but I was working. There’s nothing more fulfilling than doing what you love for a living!

I was also fortunate enough to have my family and friends join me for the VIP viewing at Banana Creek, which is also home to the Apollo-Saturn V Center.

I spent a solid 3 hours waiting for launch inside the center, but I was so busy exploring all the exhibits that I almost forgot about the launch! As time neared, my family, friends, and I made our way to the launch seats. Although it was scorching hot outside, it was worth every second of the countdown. I’ve NEVER seen a launch, and the moment I saw plumes of exhaust, my skin was covered with goosebumps.

We were all in awe. In almost no time at all, stage 1 and 2 had separated and Space Tango Payloads were en route to the International Space Station. I took photos, published a press release, and just like that –  my first launch was over and I’m counting down until the next one. While I started my own countdown to the next launch I’d be attending, we enjoyed our access passes to the Kennedy Space Center. That in itself was amazing and well-worth the time (there’s a limited supply, but students and faculty can purchase discounted tickets for KSC).

There are many more photos that I can share and more stories to tell about my first trip to KSC, but I’ll leave that up to you to explore and discover.

⋆ Dani

 

#BlackGirlMagic in STEM

We come to college to learn from books, but the biggest lessons we gain are from the people we cross paths with. As a woman of color at a predominantly white institution (and predominantly male), it can be challenging to find confidence in yourself. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet many inspirational women of all ages and even more so, women of color that seek out not only to advance themselves, but the people around them as well.

For this post I will be highlighting one particular woman that has gone above and beyond at Embry-Riddle. Meet Naia!

Naia is a junior in Aerospace Engineering with a minor in Applied Mathematics. She is actively involved in National Society of Black Engineers, McNair Scholars, Kappa Mu Epsilon, Bible Study, and Dreams Soar Inc. With all of this on her plate, Naia is also the founder of Embry-Riddle Dancing Eagles. Naia is a Pathways intern at NASA Glenn Research Center working on a High Power Density CubeSat project. Although she began her Pathways internship last September, she is currently on her second cycle of the program. 

Astronaut and NASA Glenn Research Center Director, Janet Kavandi (left) and student Naia (right) being sworn in for her first day as a Pathways intern.

I’ve watched Naia from the moment she arrived thrive among her peers as an individual, but even the most successful people have fears about fitting in! She was excited to answer a few questions in hopes of relating to other women of color pursuing, or currently in STEM fields.

“As a woman of color on campus, I feel the biggest challenge I face is Atychiphobia – the fear of being wrong. Stereotypes of women of color in society are often negative.”

As a ‘super-minority,’ women of color often feel intimidated in their academic space. We are subjected to expectations on how we act, dress, and behave. These false expectations can place a lot of pressure on women of color.

“I never want to feel like an undeserved token student or the stereotypical uneducated black female,” Naia added.

Like Naia, we’ve faced this fear of our mistakes overpowering our academic strength. Like Naia, however, I have learned to overcome this. I, myself, was fortunate enough to meet Naia, and many women like her within the past few years, who strives beyond false expectations and imaginary boundaries and women that make their own connections and find motivation to persevere.

Organizations like the National Society of Black Engineers and the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals exist on our campus to allow minorities such as ourselves to flourish. Such organizations exist for other minority groups as well such as the Society for Hispanic Engineers. All of these clubs, and hundreds more are open to everyone.

Naia’s advice? “Remember to build a network of like-minded, motivated and positive individuals.”

Always remember your goal. How do you define success? Finding people that define success the same way you do will allow you to excel. Women of color have an opportunity to flourish academically and socially alongside women like Naia at Embry-Riddle. The university has an abundance of student organizations that can allow you to find the connections you need to persevere. We may have to work twice as hard for recognition, but we do it together.

We met Ms. Johnson at an annual career fair representing NASA and took it upon ourselves to network! We were then invited for a private tour of Kennedy Space Center. Don’t be afraid to make your own opportunities!(From left to right – Grace Johnson, Education and Youth Projects, Moriah Graham from Aeronautical Science, Danielle Rosales from Communication, and now alumna Cheyenne Nurse with a B.S. in Spaceflight Operations (formerly Commercial Space Operations)

Never forget that we’re more than a statistic, we’re breaking the glass ceiling. We’re pushing the boundaries for another generation. Naia and I encourage women of color to look past fears, concerns and intimidation to attend schools like Riddle to embrace who you are while achieving your dream. There are no limits.

⋆ Dani

I Began my Morning with a Little Bit of Gardening

I’m a Communication major and I hope to be a public relations specialist for the aerospace industry. Somehow though, I’ve gotten into a little bit of hydroponic gardening at Space Tango.

garden1

Each glass cup was filled with mulch pebbles surrounding a pod of seeds. Connecting each cup a tubing system that will cycle the water from one cup to the next until it returns back to the water tank. (That’s my hand by the way, doing science things instead of writing.)

This morning the Space Tango biomedical engineer and her intern asked for a little help with a prototype hydroponic system. I had no idea how to even begin such a system, but with a little guidance I soon found myself placing pebbled mulch, seeds, and burlap. A decent amount of duct tape later and we had a fully-functioning hydroponic system. As water flowed from cup to cup, I couldn’t believe I was “just ” a Communication major. I think our positions are what we make of them, but they aren’t meant to be boundaries.

garden2

To the right you’ll see our water tank accompanied by a small pump. Attached to the pump is one end of the tubing. After cycling through each glass cup, the final tubing flows water back into the tank to begin the process again.

garden3

To help contain the mulch and soon-to-be plants, burlap was taped to the surface of each cup. Believe it or not, this was the hardest part for us.

I spent my time here at Space Tango on a computer working on press releases, networking, websites, and social media. Just for today, I spent it in the lab. I got to get a first-hand try of what I report. It’s just a prototype, but it’s a step in the scientific process. It was exciting to be a part of it! As a writer, it’s great to be able to try the things you only get to write about.

⋆ Dani

 

Unforeseen Advice

I walked into the Space Tango office with my usual to-do list of intern tasks, but I didn’t know that I would be adding new goals – like starting a retirement fund.

I’m only 21 going on 22 and my mentor is 25, but she said that she’s already begun saving and there’s no reason I shouldn’t also. Before I knew it, it was the Morning Show with Ellie and I was receiving the most helpful advice since I started working at Space Tango.

Ellie, along with the occasional input from other coworkers, told me about their saving plans, credit scores, and we even talked about stocks a little. These are all things you don’t really learn unless the “right time” comes around. I just didn’t think it would be in the Space Tango office.

I’m a Communication and Marketing intern and I have 6 weeks left. I expected to gain first-hand experience on advertising, public relations, and business tactics in the aerospace industry. In the time that I have been here, I learned more than I expected. My coworkers have shown me not only the reality of the aerospace industry, but the reality of being an adult. The Space Tango team takes the time to make sure I’m adjusting well to a new environment because they understand that at one point this was all new to them as well.

CEO Twyman Clements takes a break from reorganizing the office to show me microscope glasses.

CEO Twyman Clements takes a break from reorganizing the office to show me microscope glasses.

When I began my internship, all of my questions were oriented towards my area of study, but I have to remind myself that my mentors are just people. They can provide more than just feedback on your work, but a new perspective on life. What should we really be paying attention to? Why do we work as hard as we do?

There’s so much more to take into consideration then we think, and it’s a lot easier to have the people that have gone through it tell you how it went than figuring it all out on your own. I’m not alone, and being an intern isn’t unfamiliar. We all have to start somewhere, so don’t be too serious. Ask questions outside of school and work. Learn about the people around you and it may just start to feel a little like home.

⋆ Dani

Minors are a Major Deal

Minor courses of study don’t get enough praise. I’m currently minoring in business administration and space studies to complement my Communication degree. My initial intention was to take something I was interested in that was sensible for my field, and they certainly are, but I didn’t recognize the true value of them until working with Space Tango.

Space Tango works to scale down customers’ experiments to fit in what they call CubeLabs for microgravity research on the International Space Station. As a Communication major, it’s difficult to see how I piece into this puzzle of research and design. My minor, however, in space studies (SP) provides me with the background information to keep up with the engineers during our meetings. It’s a puzzle piece to the bigger picture.

CubeLabs waiting to be tested in a pressure chamber.

CubeLabs waiting to be tested in a pressure chamber.

SP courses that I have taken gave me an overview of mission history, rocket and propulsion systems, ISS configuration, and so much more. If it wasn’t for my SP minor, then I wouldn’t be as valuable as I am now in the aerospace industry and I wouldn’t be able to effectively market their brand to prospective customers.

My business minor ties it all together. I can keep up with our director of business operations and even devise my own marketing plans that reflect the industry and the company. It’s like being a triple threat in the job market. I have so much more to offer as an intern and, one day, as an employee.

My skills are flexible and it’s all thanks to my minors! I think finding such minors are especially beneficial for flexible degree programs such as Communication. We can fit anywhere, but if there’s an industry you want to work in then cater your education towards it. Especially during internship season and applications, it’s important to keep a few things in mind. What are your strengths? What sets you aside from others? Don’t overestimate the power of your minors. Take the time to find one or two that accommodates your interests or pieces you into your dream industry.

⋆ Dani

Ditch the Yellow Brick Road

Interning at Space Tango has certainly put project management into perspective. Throughout my last four years at Riddle nothing was more challenging to me than staying on task. Assignments sometimes require so much more than we expect.

So what happens when you give a communication major MATLAB for a math gen ed? What happens when you give an engineer a business plan? Or a paper to write? Or a lab to test for safety and health issues? At Space Tango, the CEO is more than just a businessman. Twyman Clements is not only an engineer, but sometimes he’s a marketing specialist, a technical report writer, and a human factors psychologist all in one day. Staying on task means taking on extra responsibility.
On the International Space Station, astronauts have a VERY strict schedule. Their days are planned out by the second. Astronauts don’t get to float back and watch an episode of Bob’s Burgers. They have to follow the red line. On their schedule, known as the Onboard Short Term Plan Viewer (OSTPV), a dotted red line runs across the screen at the pace they should be working. Astronauts use this to figure out if they are on task, or behind.

An old OSTPV that astronauts use. The dotted red line indicates where on their schedule astronauts should be.

An old OSTPV that astronauts use. The dotted red line indicates where on their schedule astronauts should be.

As we know, each astronaut is extensively skilled. They’re more than just astronauts. They’re physicists, biomedical engineers, researchers, and many of which are parents, too. “Astronaut” is a pretty broad title, and even with all their responsibility they manage to follow the red line.

We often overlook the humanities courses that we take, but I’m witnessing first-hand how it all fits together. We aren’t astronauts (not yet at least if that’s what you’re in to), but we are taught to recognize how interdependent our classes really are. The minors you take will only expand the depth of your knowledge.
I’m studying communication, but I don’t just focus on the complexities of grammar and speech. As a communication major I have to understand body language and the art of persuasion all while maintaining background knowledge in the subjects I address. I have to target an audience based on their interests and needs.

All of this sometimes, and more often than not, means I need to understand sociology, psychology, engineering, commercial space laws, international relations, marketing, physics, astronomy, organizational behavior – the list goes on. These are only a few of the subjects I’ve researched for papers, speeches, and interviews. It’s a lot, but by understanding everything, not only am I more valuable to a company, but I can depend on myself to get everything done on time.
I’m not an astronaut, but how could I ever say I’m just a communication major? I’m so much more than a writer and you are so much more than your major. We’re all just following the red line.

⋆ Dani

Casual Science

I spent the last three years networking. I met everyone I could. Hell, I even looked into fields that had nothing to do with my interest in space. If I could at least develop a connection with a representative, then I would have a source, an ‘in.’ This year, that ‘in’ paid off.

Walking into the Space Tango office was unreal. I'm excited to be taking my first real steps towards accomplishing my goals.

Walking into the Space Tango office was unreal. I’m excited to be taking my first real steps towards accomplishing my goals.

I’m now an intern at Space Tango, Inc. in Lexington, Kentucky. I work reasonable hours for solid pay. The environment is amazing, and my coworkers are helpful. I’m also getting credit hours for this and we all know that’s a great bonus. It’s science, but it’s casual.

As a communication major at an aeronautical university, everyone wonders “how do those even fit together?” Honestly, I asked myself the same thing before I switched my major. Communication is more than writing a few technical reports or manuals. I personally would like to do public relations for an aerospace company. Ha. How often do you hear of that? Well that’s the thing; you don’t hear about it at all. Being the stubborn woman that I am, I made it an option before someone could tell me otherwise.

I knew nothing about pursuing such a career in science, so I found someone that did. The communication department is flooded with individuals that specialize in writing, speech, behavior, etc. Never forget that they were all somewhere before Riddle. My advisor helped shape my classes for my desired career path and another amazing professor shared her experience in the competitive field of public relations. This was just step 1.

Step 2 was maintaining a focus in science. I picked up a major in space studies to expand my understanding of anything aerospace (satellites, orbital paths, rocket history, propulsion, and more) and to keep me up-to-date on current events. From there, it all happened on its own. I attended open lectures, forums, anything that would provide me an opportunity for one-on-one interaction with professionals in the aerospace industry.

This was really my last “planned” step, step 3. Even if they weren’t always successful, I familiarized myself with other fields. I learned from people I didn’t think I would. This is how I met Michelle Lucas, an Embry-Riddle alumna and CEO of Higher Orbits.I made it my mission to have her remember me. I emailed her, and when I didn’t hear from her in two weeks, I emailed her again. She finally responded and the conversation flowed from there. She invited me to be a member on the Higher Orbits advisory board as she developed her nonprofit “Go For Launch” program, but I wasn’t beating myself up that I didn’t get a high end co-op as yet. I was building my resources.

I continued to casually work towards my goals as a COM major. I maintained relationships with people that I met over the last few years (astronauts, professors, research scientists, NASA employees, people those of us at Embry-Riddle dream of meeting). I expanded my extracurricular experience ranging from Greek Life to the Caribbean Students’ Association. I got a couple of on-campus jobs that dabbled in marketing. I gained leadership experience and focused on my studies. This was all while my network was growing on its own in the background. My casual encounters and skills that I continuously developed were being now discussed by aerospace professionals. I was commended for my hard work, for my creativity,and my goals. Just as I was getting a little impatient, an opportunity finally arose.

Michelle Lucas informed my advisor of an internship opportunity with a micro-gravity research company in search of a communication student to handle their marketing and public relations. I underwent an interview process and shared the portfolio of my work that I built from all my extracurricular activities. A couple of weeks later, I was invited to join the Space Tango team for the spring semester.

Twitter is one of the digital mediums I handle on a day-to-day basis. I update followers on experiments and launches.

Twitter is one of the digital mediums I handle on a day-to-day basis. I update followers on experiments and launches.

My networking paid off. I’m spending my spring semester surrounded by engineers, live feeds from the ISS, and constant news and updates on the SpaceX launches. I’m currently working on media coverage for Space Tango’s payload for CRS-10. I not only control their social media, but I develop media alerts and press releases.

My name is Danielle Rosales. I’m a senior communication major with minors in business administration and space studies. I don’t have an outstanding 3.0 GPA, but I’ve held several jobs on campus in marketing, media relations, and graphic design. I’ve developed a reliable network and have been mentored by Embry-Riddle faculty members.

I’m right where I wanted to be doing something people didn’t even think was possible. The best part of it all? Getting here was all so casual.

⋆ Dani