December 07, 2012 by Shannon Nolan
Daniel Diazdelcastillo, a freshman at Drexel University, still has over a year until the start of his first co-op, but his chances of interning at NASA are already great.
A materials science and engineering major, Diazdelcastillo, 18, spent six weeks this past summer as an intern at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. The internship provided Diazdelcastillo with the chance to work on various projects along with six other high school and college students. Diazdelcastillo said that by the end of the internship, his mentor promised to try to give all of the interns a chance to come back a second time.
“Basically [my mentor at NASA] … said he’d do his best, if anything, to get us back in,” Diazdelcastillo said. “He said we’d still have to do well in school and everything, but it’s basically a second time coming back.”
When asked if that meant that he was guaranteed a position based on his contacts and work experience in NASA, Diazdelcastillo said, “Guaranteed is a very loose word to throw around because nothing in the world is.”
With a small team of students, Diazdelcastillo said he spent his time in NASA’s Innovation Lab working on different projects that were designed to benefit Goddard while helping the interns gain experience.
His involvement as an intern at the Innovation Lab was extensive. He worked on three main projects, two of which were successfully completed, including fixing a 3-D printer, creating a free spinning wheel to hold the plastic for the printer, and creating a maneuverable table that could hold heavy loads such as a 300-pound granite block that would hold a covered lathe.
The 3-D printer, which needed replacement parts and calibration, was able to make 3-D models of things that varied from parts needed for other projects to iPhone cases.
The second successful project involved making a free-spinning wheel that held a plastic wire reel. The wheel was fed into the 3-D printer, and the plastic served as the material for the models being created. When completed, the wheel successfully fed plastic into the printer, creating anything the interns designed.
The third project, a maneuverable table that held a granite block and enclosed lathe, was designed to cut materials with nanoparticles and was not completed before Diazdelcastillo left the internship.
“The idea is that eventually, with the help of other interns and co-ops, the lathe will be used for cutting anything with nanoparticles,” Diazdelcastillo said. “It will have to be enclosed because nanoparticles act similar to asbestos; it goes into your lungs and stays there and is bad for you.”
Diazdelcastillo said that he keeps in contact with his mentor at NASA, sending a few emails from time to time, and hopes that everything with the future internship goes as planned. When asked about the overall experience, Diazdelcastillo’s answer was simple:
“I loved it. I was just doing all of the stuff I like doing.”
Currently hoping to apply for Drexel’s bachelor’s-master’s five-year program, Diazdelcastillo isn’t sure exactly what he wants to do with his future, but he thinks NASA may play a part.
“Since I was little, I loved NASA,” Diazdelcastillo said. “Even though this sounds real childish, I still would like to go to space and would like to be an astronaut. … I think it would be pretty cool.”
Though he doesn’t know if traveling to space will ever happen for him, Diazdelcastillo said that if anything, aerospace and aeronautics are the fields that inspire him and that he can see himself working in one day.
Until he hears from NASA with a definitive job offer, Diazdelcastillo said that he plans to stay involved with Drexel and to keep himself occupied with his own endeavors.
Currently the treasurer of Materials Advantage on campus and a member of the American Society for Mechanical Engineers, Diazdelcastillo said that most of his free time is spent working on his own invention called the ARCAPM, or Autonomous and Remote Control Operated All-Purpose Machine, which is currently patent pending. He hopes the patent of this autonomous and remote-controlled vehicle, which will eventually have the capacity to complete numerous tasks such as vacuuming leaves and compressing air, will be finalized and reviewed so that he can begin building.