Pros: great place to work, they had everything on base you could want, close to my house, i made my professors jealous
Cons: low starting pay and a slower pace than i am used to
I enjoyed being a student trainee at NASA. There were only 64 positions nationwide and I got one. How? I do not really know. I believe that my personality was so atypical of an engineer that they were interested in seeing what would happen.
My duties evolved as I advanced my degree and got more experience. I began using my CAD skills to design parts. My most successful project my first year was design a new upper and lower deck for the satellite. But first I had to learn how the old ones were made. I spent a month watching the composites team build these elaborate decks with aluminum inserts. The entire time I thought, "This allows no adjustment and the components must be balanced for mass and rotational inertia". So I spoke up and created a parametric model that was fully adjustable in Pro/E. Doing so allowed me use the software to balance the mass. After my presentation, they began the process of switching over and I felt great.
The second year, I saw that all engineers are not equal. I was subjected to modern day baby sitting for an underachieving young engineer that somehow managed to get tenure. I took over his vibration lab responsibilities and created templates for his reports. I enjoyed running the vibration lab but could have done so by myself. I created the preliminary report for official vibration testing at the "real" vibration testing lab. I used FEMAP and NASTRAN to model the shock loads as to avoid over designing the decks. Weight is ALWAYS a concern at NASA. I also got to play with some really cool epoxies when designing a custom fly away connector.
Then the – more... decision was made, by me to go for greener pastures and not accept the position at NASA. I am kicking myself right now. A young kid thinks salary now is better than security later. That joke's on me.
Overall, this was an excellent experience that proved that I have what it takes to be in product development and R&D. Something that many believed that I could not. Sure, I am great at math and science but, here I learned how to put it all together. My only regret is that I stayed here and not went for the money. Especially since that offer got cancelled due to the sluggish economy. The only bad thing is that the Columbia disaster happened when I was there and that I may never be able to work there again (because it's hard to do, not because of anything nefarious). – less