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MAE undergrad shoots for stars with NASA internship

Blake Scoville’s career end goal is to become an astronaut. Barring that, the MU mechanical and aerospace (MAE) engineering junior said, he will settle for working in the aerospace industry. This summer, he will take a big step in that direction with an internship at NASA’s Marshall Space Center in Huntsville, Ala.

Scoville poses near a jet engine.

Blake Scoville will be working with NASA on a project aimed at improving electrical power and communication capabilities in small spacecraft.

Scoville first applied unsuccessfully for a summer position with NASA during his sophomore year. The process made him realize that he was somewhat underqualified and he said he took a hard look at his future and asked himself, “What do I need to make this happen?”

At the time, MAE Assistant Professor Jacob McFarland wrote him a letter of recommendation and also suggested he talk to MAE Professor Craig Kluever who has mentored students now working in successful careers at NASA.

“Dr. Kluever only has one undergraduate research position and that person was graduating,” Scoville said, acknowledging his lucky timing, especially since Kluever agreed to add him to his research team.

In Kluever’s lab, Scoville is working to map the effects of solar radiation on space vehicles’ solar cells in order to optimize trajectory. “A spaceship in a certain orbit will get more damage,” Scoville explained. “Trapped particles [around Earth] are in a donut shape but in higher altitudes, they’re not as bad.”

“At first I was way in over my head but I’ve learned so much. It’s been a great experience,” Scoville said. Dr. Kluever is a great mentor.”

With a little experience, a new essay and a recommendation letter from Kluever, Scoville’s application to NASA for an internship this summer was approved. He will be working on a project aimed at improving electrical power and communication capabilities in small spacecraft. The “Lightweight Integrated Solar Array and Transceiver” project, nicknamed LISA-T, is a Space Technology Mission Directorate Early Career Initiative project intended to “develop NASA early career technologists and to advance the next generation of innovators.”

Scoville said he is excited and so are his parents, Jack and Anne Scoville. His father is a 1982 MU civil engineering graduate. “I’ve been talking about getting into the aerospace industry and they’ve been so supportive,” he said. His brother Brock is a 2015 MU bioengineering graduate.

In addition to doing undergraduate research, Scoville is a member of MU’s student chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, which just took first place in a regional design competition. He additionally is a member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Association’s rocket team and has served on the Engineering Student Council and St. Pat’s Board and is member of Delta Chi fraternity.