(Submitted June 22, 1997)
I am 13 years old and I have long
been interested in space and astronomy. I like to construct all kinds of
things. I have set a high goal for myself and I was hoping you would
have some suggestions on what colleges to attend. I would like to be a robotics
NASA and design space probes. Well, if you have any suggestions about what to
do please let me know.
It is great that you are interested in becoming an engineer
and working on robotics for space. Most of us here at Ask an Astrophysicist
are physicists or astronomers, so we don't have experience with
exactly the things you are interested in. However, we do work for NASA
in one form or another, and many of the courses we took in college were
the same as those taken by engineers, so we know something about the
subject. I would separate the answer into the following parts:
(i) It is generally true that 'better' (i.e. more competitive) colleges
provide better educations and job opportunities for their graduates.
However, this is certainly not always true. State universities, for
example, often provide as good educations as private universities.
Some names of private universities which are known for good engineering
programs are MIT and Cal Tech. Some of these will have their own
laboratories which may be working with NASA on the kind of
engineering applications you are interested in; you may be able to
get work experience while you are still in school.
(ii) Once you are in
college there are summer school programs which can give you an overview of the
kind of work going on inside NASA. Our laboratory, Goddard Space Flight Center,
operates one of these, and I am sure that there are others at other NASA
centers. You can get information by writing to Ms. Maybelline Burrell,
Code 100, NASA/GSFC, Greenbelt, MD 20771.
(iii) Finally, I would caution
against deciding on your career choice too early. There are many
interesting things to do, and by keeping your mind somewhat open you may
happen onto something wonderful and unexpected.
I hope this helps.
for the Ask an Astrophysicist team