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Senior Advancing Space Exploration Thru NASA Internship Program

January 25, 2019
William Amtmann during his co-op experience at NASA.

William Amtmann ’19, (Langhorne, PA), a mechanical engineering major, had the opportunity of a lifetime. Witnessing history in the making before receiving your college degree is not something that happens to everyone.

From a child to the man he is today, William has always been fascinated by outer space and what lies out in the great beyond. For many years, he thought he wanted to be an artist and mathematics was not a strong skill of his. It wasn’t until physics class in 9th grade and geometry in 10th grade that he started to pick up a stronger interest for crunching numbers—an important skill to have in engineering.

“I remember in my 9th grade math class I said to a friend, ‘I only need this if I’m going to be an engineer,’ and in that moment I sure wasn’t going to be. I decided I wanted to be an engineer at NASA towards the end of 11th grade when we started researching colleges,” said William.

The Offer of His Dreams

At the beginning of the summer 2018 semester, William took a chance and applied for an internship with NASA online. He went about his summer courses as expected, working on his capstone presentation and completing coursework.

By the end of the semester, he received an email that would certainly propel him into the career of his dreams. With a subject line that read “NASA Internship Offer,” he was taken aback at the thought of becoming a part of the organization of his dreams.

“I never had the expectation to be able to work at NASA before graduation. It’s been a chance to contribute to something bigger,” said William.

Shadowing His Heroes

While interning at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, he had the opportunity to contribute directly to rocket engineering under the Pressure Vessels Systems Program.

William explains that “a lot of what the pressure systems group does is failure prediction and analysis and making sure the systems meet ASME [American Society of Mechanical Engineers] codes.” He worked directly with mechanical integrity for the test stands, gained a deeper understanding of the problems engineers in space exploration face, and how to test different possible scenarios to further the advancement of sending humankind into space effectively and efficiently. 

“The first engine test I saw was jaw dropping. The power behind that, and the noise, is unmatched by any other mode of transportation,” reflected William. Through this opportunity, he was able to view multiple tests of the ‘RS-25 engine’ that will be used on the SLS rocket, which will be used to take astronauts to the Moon as well as Mars.

“I was watching the beginning of the next chapter of human exploration.” And that’s exactly what fascinates him. As interns, they had the opportunity to tour the facilities. As they waited in the lobby for their tour guide to show them Aerojet Rocketdyne’s engine assembly facility, the door opened to people walking out in blue jumpsuits.

“My first thought was ‘astronauts wear those.’ Then I thought, ‘oh those are astronauts.’ I had randomly, in passing, met six of the newest astronaut candidates,” said William. 

Finding His Way at York

When William began his college search, he was not sure about the field he wanted to study. He researched many colleges and programs, and the engineering co-op program at York College caught his eye. To him, it felt like the perfect fit for where he wanted to go. 

In the beginning of his college career, the program offered him a taste of a variety of engineering courses until he made his choice to pursue the mechanical engineering program as his best option.

“I never used the ‘get a job’ mentality when making college decisions. I focused on what I cared about. It just so happens that what I care about is enabled by engineering,” states William. 

The NASA internship wasn’t his first opportunity to dip his feet into space exploration. Through the College’s Graham Innovation Scholars program, he did a research project on reusable rockets. 

For his capstone project, he’s working on designing and building a 4.5 meter radio telescope that will benefit the York County Astronomical Society. 

William can now say that he has “been able to contribute to the proliferation of space sciences locally in York and nationally in Mississippi.”

Learn more about the Kinsley School of Engineering, Sciences and Technlogy.

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