By ALAN KARMIN
While some students’ plans for summer break are up in the air at this time, one Old Bridge High School student’s plans may be up in the air, but quite unlike her classmates.
Tamara Kasikovic, a sophomore at Old Bridge High School (OBHS), has been selected as one of a handful of high school students across the nation to work alongside NASA scientists and researchers this summer through the NASA STEM Enhancement in Earth and Science (SEES) summer internship program.
The nationally competitive program is a collaborative effort of Texas Space Grant Consortium members and its affiliates, NASA and The University of Texas at Austin. The internships are organized around an aerospace or space science theme drawn from NASA’s diverse engineering and scientific research programs.
Tamara will be working on the ROADS on Asteroids team to design a robotic mission to the surface of an asteroid called Vesta.
“I will be planning and simulating a mission to the ‘snowman’ feature on the asteroid Vesta using robotics,” Tamara said. “The mission will include an impactor from height onto the surface, drone landing and takeoff, and robotic navigation across potentially hazardous surfaces to look for the building blocks of life.”
Under normal circumstances, Tamara would be spending the time of her internship living on the campus of the University of Texas and working within the NASA laboratories. However, due to COVID restrictions, the work will be completed virtually with equipment provided by NASA at her home.
Overall, Tamara will be performing approximately 150 hours of research alongside NASA scientists.
Tamara said her interest was piqued when an OBHS alum presented to the school’s Society of Women Engineers Club.
“I have always been interested in coding and astronomy,” said Tamara, “but I haven’t had much experience in the overlap of these two subjects. When I saw the presentation … it really opened my eyes to the possible computer science careers at NASA. I began looking for NASA high school internships around winter break, and that’s when I discovered the SEES program. It seemed like the perfect program for me since I could explore coding, robotics and space mission design all at once.”
Tamara said that she hopes to eventually attend one of her dream colleges, Cornell University or Stanford University, and attain a degree in computer science with minors in business and astronomy. She added that she would also love to get a master’s degree in robotics.
“Combining my passion for space exploration with my inclination for coding, I aspire to work at NASA and direct the software development of rovers for space missions,” she said. “I hope to develop and code technology at NASA to push the boundaries of what is already known about space. The internship is really a game changer for me because I will be able to work alongside professionals who already have my dream career.”