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Soaring into Aerospace: NASA Interns Take Flight at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh

Soaring into Aerospace: NASA Interns Take Flight at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh

Soaring into Aerospace: NASA Interns Take Flight at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh

Four people pose in front of a giant inflatable astronaut. Each of the four people are in polos with a NASA insignia on the upper left of their shirt. It’s sunny and clouds and a blue sky can be seen in the background. A large white tent with a NASA logo emblazoned above the entrance can also be seen in the background. Credit: NASAALT

Sustainable Aviation Ambassadors Alex Kehler, Bianca Legeza-Narvaez, Evan Gotchel, and Janki Patel pose in front of the NASA Pavilion at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh.

It’s that time of year again–EAA AirVenture Oshkosh is underway!

Boasting more than 650,000 visitors annually, EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, or “Oshkosh” for short, is an airshow and fly-in held by the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA). Each year, flight enthusiasts and professionals from around the world converge on Oshkosh, Wisconsin, to engage with industry-leading organizations and businesses and celebrate past, present, and future innovation in aviation.

This year, four NASA interns with the Electrified Powertrain Flight Demonstration (EPFD) project count themselves among those 650,000+ visitors, having the unique opportunity to get firsthand experience with all things aerospace at Oshkosh.

Alex Kehler, Bianca Legeza-Narvaez, Evan Gotchel, and Janki Patel are Sustainable Aviation Ambassadors supporting the EPFD project, which conducts tests of hybrid electric aircraft that use electric aircraft propulsion technologies to enable a new generation of electric-powered aircraft. The focus of Alex, Bianca, Evan, and Janki’s internships cover everything from strategic communications to engineering, and they typically do their work using a laptop. But at Oshkosh, they have a special, more hands-on task: data collection.

“At Oshkosh, I am doing some data collection to better estimate how we can be prepared in the future,” said Janki, an Aerospace Engineering major from the University of Michigan. “Coming to Oshkosh has been an amazing experience… I can walk around and see people passionate about the work they do.”

This image shows the inside of a large tent filled with people. There are three visible stations throughout the tent, which consist of tall pillars that are adorned with color-coded decorations for the theme of the station. Along two of the stations are two interactive visual displays, where visitors sit in chairs and, through the use of a controller, navigate a virtual game featuring NASA aircraft. Credit: NASAALT

The NASA Pavilion at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh is full of interactive exhibits and activities for visitors to engage with. NASA Interns Alex, Bianca, Evan, and Janki are collecting data in the pavilion to help improve future exhibits at Oshkosh.

In addition to gathering data to help inform future NASA exhibits and activities at Oshkosh, the interns also have the opportunity to engage with visitors and share their passion for aviation with other aero enthusiasts. For Evan, who is receiving his Master’s in Aerospace Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology, “being able to be here and talk with people who are both young and old who are interested in what the future of flight could be has been so incredible.”

Four people pose in front of NASA’s Super Guppy, a large, specialized aircraft that is used to transport oversize cargo. Each of the four people are wearing a polo shirt with a NASA insignia on the upper left of their shirt. The group is smiling and laughing for the photo. The Super Guppy is shiny and has silver covering the top half of the aircraft, white on the bottom half of the aircraft, and a large blue stripe running along the middle. Credit: NASAALT

Alex, Evan, Bianca, and Janki pose in front of NASA’s Super Guppy, a specialized aircraft used to transport oversized cargo.

At Oshkosh, one memory in particular stands out for Alex, Bianca, Evan, and Janki: seeing NASA’s famous Super Guppy in person. With a unique hinged nose and a cargo area that’s 25 feet in diameter and 111 feet long, the Super Guppy can carry oversized cargo that is impossible to transport with other cargo aircraft. 

“We had a very lucky experience… We were able to not only see the Super Guppy, we got to get up close when it landed,” said Bianca, who is receiving her Master’s in Business Administration with a specialization in Strategic Communications from Bowling Green State University. “From a learning experience, it gave me a way better basis on cargo aircraft and how they operate.” 

For Alex, who is receiving his Master’s in Aeronautical Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology, it was exciting to see the Super Guppy’s older technology integrated with newer technologies up close. “There have been a lot of good memories, but I think the best one was the Super Guppy. It was cool to see this combination of 60’s and 70’s technology with this upgraded plane.”

Two people pose for a photo in a street. The person taking the photo is taking the image “selfie style,” so that their arms are visible in the frame. Both of the people are smiling. One is wearing a white polo and the other is wearing a red polo, and both shirts feature the NASA insignia. People can be seen milling about behind the two who are posing for the photo, and in the distance, small aircraft parked on grass can also be seen. Credit: NASAALT

Evan and Janki pose for a photo while walking around EAA AirVenture Oshkosh.

With Oshkosh coming to a close this Sunday, July 30, Alex, Bianca, Evan, and Janki also reflected on advice they have for future NASA interns on how they can get the most out of their internship: be curious and explore, connect with people who work in the field you’re interested in, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Alex advises potential NASA interns to “dream big and shoot for your goals, and divide that up into steps… In the end it will work out.” For Bianca, being open and exploring is key: “take opportunities, even if it’s the complete opposite thing that you were intending to do.”

Two people pose for a photo. The person taking the photo is taking the image “selfie style,” so one of their arms is visible in the photo, and they are wearing a blue polo with the NASA insignia featured on the upper left of their shirt. The person not taking the photo is holding an umbrella over them and is wearing a light blue shirt. Both of the people are smiling. In the background, there is grass, and in the distance, there are small aircraft parked on the grass. Credit: NASAALT

“Ask questions all the time,” said Evan. “Even outside the internship, always continue asking people about what they are knowledgeable on.” And Janki encourages future interns to “Follow your own path. Get the help of mentors, but still do your own thing.”

Visiting Oshkosh and want to see NASA science in action? Stop by the NASA Pavilion, located at Aviation Gateway Park, and see everything from interactive exhibits on sustainable aviation, Advanced Air Mobility, Quesst, and Artemis to STEM activities–and you may even meet NASA pilots, engineers, and astronauts! At Oshkosh, the sky’s the limit.

Interested in interning with NASA? Head over to NASA’s internship website to learn more about internship opportunities with NASA and find your place in (aero)space.

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