An Owensboro Community & Technical College student is returning the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to work with NASA, this time as an intern for the organization's Office of STEM Engagement Matrix Intern Project.
Kiean Washington will participate in the program in the spring and summer of 2020. In the spring, he will be assisting with the NextGEN STEM Commercial Crew Project, which according to the NASA website, will be "working with Boeing and Space X to design, develop, and test systems to send astronauts to the Space Station."
The summer project, according to the website, will focus on the Lunabotics Competition in which participants "build and run their autonomously operated robot, traverse the simulated off-world terrain and excavate the simulated Lunar (surface)."
Washington lives by the philosophy that trying and failing is better than not trying at all, and he wants to encourage other students.
"You don't always to be exemplary to get where you want to go," he said. "You just have to be determined and willing to try."
Washington was a member of the first Tech X initiative at OCTC, which provides training for a multi-craft technology program in a real-world and industrial environment. He attributes his interest in robotics and hands-on learning to the Tech X program.
Tech X was first developed last year, and provides a hands-on approach to learning several skills, including construction, fabrication, fitting, welding and manufacturing in an industrial environment that is paced with each individual student. The coursework is project-based, which allows each student to move forward once they have mastered each of the skills in the program.
Students will work alone and in teams to complete modules, during which they can earn a gas welder certificate, arc cutter certificate, production line welder certificate or a forklift operator's certificate.
Katie Vincent, special initiatives facilitator for OCTC Workforce Solutions, said through Tech X, Washington was able to secure a job working at Castlen Steel.
"We have students who come in who have never welded before, who have never worked in machine tool before," Vincent said. "This program, because it's not a pick and choose kind of deal, it gives you the entry-level skills for the workforce."
Once Washington completes his associate's degree at OCTC, he plans to transfer to Western Kentucky University to pursue a degree in physics.
He said his educators and peers at OCTC have made his higher education experience more than just a "school."
"I knew I could learn. I just needed the opportunity to do so," he said. "OCTC allowed me to get the hands-on experience that I didn't have before."
Bobbie Hayse, email@example.com, 270-691-7315.