CAMBRIDGE, MA—Draper is honored to support two nationally recognized programs for promising students in the aerospace industry: the Patti Grace Smith Fellowship program and the Brooke Owens Fellowship program.
This summer, Draper will welcome three students from the two fellowship programs to join the company for practical, hands-on experience in the aerospace sector. Because the company works with both commercial and government customers, the students may have an opportunity to contribute to programs in areas including lunar exploration, hypersonic flight and space science.
Kendra Rivers is a Patti Grace Smith Fellow studying engineering science at Suffolk County Community College. Rivers earned a bachelor’s degree in history and taught science and math before deciding on a career in engineering. She discovered her interest in engineering while studying as a NASA Community College Aerospace Scholar and working as a STEM Educator at the Cradle of Aviation Museum. Rivers, originally of Long Island, New York, will work in the Harsh Environment Systems group at Draper.
Liza Graybill is a Brooke Owens Fellow and a student in aerospace engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder. Graybill’s interest in aerospace was sparked early on during visits to the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral. She discovered engineering at Pima Community College in Tucson, Arizona, guided by a professor who suggested her success in two classes—psychology and business calculus—and as a tutor, could translate to engineering. The combination put her on a path to study aerospace engineering. Graybill, originally from Lititz, Pennsylvania, will work in the Simulation and Visualization group at Draper.
Teresa Nguyen is a Brooke Owens Fellow studying electrical engineering at Portland State University. Before enrolling at the university, Nguyen earned a bachelor’s degree in metalworking; worked in STEM education, community organization and youth programs; and was a member of the Portland State Aerospace Society as a technical editor and researcher in propellant tanks. Nguyen, originally from Portland, Oregon, will work in the Electrical Computer-Aided Design group at Draper, with a focus on building component relationships in 3DX.
At Draper, the fellows will contribute to teams, under the supervision of mentors, that are engaged in a range of aerospace programs for commercial and government customers. Programs and capabilities may include hypersonic testing, navigation systems for robotic lunar landers, model-based design, computational modeling, machine learning and systems and capabilities for operating in the harsh environment of space.
Nguyen says the Brooke Owens Fellowship “is the most unique fellowship I have seen. The program considers not just your academic merits and GPA, but also your identity as a person outside of academic success. It’s inclusive of the broader community, including people of color and nonbinary student scholars.”
Graybill says she is looking forward to Draper and “is excited to be inspired by the people around me and the work.” Graybill was drawn to aerospace engineering in part because of her experience with hypersonic wind tunnels at the University of Arizona made possible by a Research Experience for Undergraduates program in partnership with her community college. “It’s getting your hands dirty outside the theoretical that’s important.” Her advice to the younger generation: “Keep working; keep reaching. You will surprise yourself. I haven’t found my ceiling yet.”
Rivers, who calls herself a nontraditional student, says taking risks has its benefits. She advises aspiring engineers to “go for it. And lean on as much support as you need.” She adds: “It is an honor to be selected for a fellowship dedicated to upholding the legacy of an esteemed and influential African-American woman, Patti Grace Smith.”
Draper excels at providing students with experiential learning. Since 1973 the company has supported more than 1,000 graduate students pursuing advanced degrees in engineering and the sciences.