Ryan Brown always thought a job at NASA was out of his reach.

He was wrong.

On Jan. 2, the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology student left for a 15-week internship at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston.

"It's pretty much a four-month-long interview. ... That's what they told me on the phone," he said.

In Houston, Brown will help design a spacecraft landing system. His project is called "Autonomous Landing and Hazard Avoidance Technology (ALHAT) and Morpheus User Interface Development Internship." 

The Rapid City student served in the United States Army for eight years before becoming a computer engineering major at Mines in January 2010. During his service, he was deployed three times - to Iraq, Afghanistan and Africa - as a member of a Special Forces unit. At 29, Brown is sure that his service has played a "big-time" role in the NASA internship. "That's probably what got it for me," he said.

Brown's dream career would be, of course, with NASA, probably working with robotics. Space exploration has long been on his radar, so the internship is a dream gig.

"I think pretty much everyone ... thinks it would be pretty amazing to be able to contribute to space exploration," he said.

Brown won't be the only South Dakota student in Houston. Sioux Falls native Daniel Nehlich, who attends South Dakota State University in Brookings, also was awarded the internship. Both students will each receive $10,000 scholarships to attend the internship, which is funded by the South Dakota Space Grant Consortium.

Wall earns designation

They're reading up a storm in Wall and getting noticed for it.

Last school year at Wall Elementary School, 69 percent of the third-graders scored advanced in their reading skills on state standardized tests. For that accomplishment, the school has been named a National Title I Distinguished School.

The Distinguished School Program is part of the National Title I Association, an organization focused on improving Title I schools to better serve their students.

Title I schools are those with a large percentage of economically disadvantaged students. Such schools receive extra federal funding to incorporate programming to level the educational playing field.

Wall was chosen for the award by the state Department of Education.

‘20/20' garners response

In October, ABC's "20/20" aired a segment called "Children of the Plains." The show shined a spotlight on the poverty faced by many children and families on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Students at Todd County High School decided to respond to the report. They wanted to show that there is much more to them than poverty alone. The students' video response got the attention of the South Dakota Department of Education, which commended the students.

You can access the video at http://doe.sd.gov/.

Lynn Taylor Rick is a Journal staff writer. Contact her at 394-8414 or lynn.taylorrick@rapidcityjournal.com.

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