Computer Science

Maguire interns at NASA

Maguire Interns at NASA

SUMMARY: Nicole Maguire, junior computer science major, interns at the Kennedy Space Center in Merrit Island, Florida.

By: Lauren Mitchell, Creative Services

On a visit to Texas last fall, Nicole Maguire, a junior computer science major, toured NASA’s Johnson Space Center with a friend. The tour that began as a day of fun surprisingly turned into a life-changing experience.

Maguire fell in love with the Space Center and within 24 hours of the tour, she applied for an internship with NASA. Normally, students complete their internships in the summer so that they do not have to take time off from classwork, however the positions available at the time were for the spring. “I figured I’d apply for the spring internship and then if I didn’t get it, when I applied again in the summer my name would already be out there. When I found out that I had been selected for the spring internship, it was a no brainer. This was such an amazing opportunity for me and I knew it was something I couldn’t pass up,” Maguire explained. She had entered college with enough credits to be able to take the semester off without affecting her academic progress.

Maguire was placed at the Kennedy Space Center in Merrit Island, Florida. This internship consists of developing software for a launch control system. The tasks may include but are not limited to writing software, debugging, troubleshooting, participating in and/or facilitating code inspections, writing and/or fixing unit tests, executing unit tests, analyzing automated test output and creating an automated test framework. She is currently working on a project to automate software tests that have long been completed manually. The goal is to have the testing software run overnight and every morning the program will display any errors. Normally tests for graphical elements require a lot of human interaction and are not run as often as the software is updated, so an automated system saves time and energy because it eliminates the need for a human tester to manually execute all of the tests. This also reduces the risk for human error and allows for the tests to be run more often because they can be done at the push of a button.

Maguire gained more than just knowledge about coding and programming from this internship. “I definitely gained a love and excitement for space which I did not have before. The enthusiasm for space and exploration is infectious and being surrounded by people who are so passionate about it inspired me. I know now that I want to continue to do work related to aerospace,” said Maguire. Although she was away from JMU for a semester, she doesn’t feel it has hindered her education. She learned things at NASA that can’t be studied in a classroom. Internships are a very important part of a student’s professional education by providing hands-on experience that cannot be taught. “In academia, you are asked to find one solution to a problem and you are judged on how well you get to this solution. In professional environments, there are endless possibilities. There is not just one answer to a question, and sometimes there is no answer at all. The goal for these environments is to find a solution that works effectively; it does not need to be perfect, it just has to work,” Maguire described about her experience. Maguire advises students to apply to internships that they feel passionate about. “It is important to find what you truly love and pursue that.”

Maguire had such a positive experience with her internship that she accepted another internship at the Kennedy Space Center for the summer. When she returns to JMU she will be minoring in robotics and hopes to one day travel into space. 

Published: Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Last Updated: Tuesday, February 21, 2017

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