DIT Graduate Engineer at NASA Space Centre

Fergal Ward, a DIT Graduate Engineer who is now studying for his Masters in Advanced Engineering at DIT, discovered this summer just how enjoyable his field of study could be. Fergal was one of twelve Irish Engineering and Science students chosen to participate in a Discover Science Programme with NASA in Florida's Kennedy Space Centre.

Fergal Ward and Lisa Burke, FÁS participants on the Discover Science programmeon the Space Shuttle Endeavour

Here is Fergal's own account of the purpose of the programme and his participation in what turned out to be a most exciting adventure:

"In recent times theIrish government has become concerned in relation to the falling number of students taking science and engineering subjects and especially honours mathematics in the leaving certificate. ForFas has been charged with devising initiatives that will reverse this alarming trend by encouraging more young people into science and engineering and ultimately furthering growth and prosperity in Ireland.

One such initiative, organised by Mr John Cahill from FAS, involved twelve Irish Engineering and Science graduates being selected to spend six weeks at NASA Kennedy Space Centre.

I was delighted and privileged as a graduate of the Manufacturing Degree Programme to be selected as a participant on this programme which was developed with Mr Tony Gannon, NASA Educational Manager and Discover Science Co-ordinator. It included instruction in subjects related to graduate-level space science, engineering and research at the Florida Space Institute by NASA scientists and Astronauts. Subjects included Rocket Propulsion, Flight Dynamics, Guidance and Navigation Control, Telemetry, Payload Design, Space Environment, Space Science and Technology, Life Sciences and Laboratory Payload Activities.

Another Initiative of the agenda involved the practical design, development, construction, testing and launch of payloads using meteorological balloons and the launch of the first ever Irish rocket into space.

Another innovation of the programme involved Field trips to NASA and the US Air force facilities to study in detail their functions, technology and infrastructure. These included visits to the Space Shuttle Endeavour, launch facilities of the Delta rockets, International Space Stations facilities, Biological Research Hanger L, SpaceHab shuttle science modules and Godard Space Flight Center Tracking Station.

The programme provided an ideal opportunity for me to work with top science and engineering graduates of the other Irish universities and to participate as a team in the work of the NASA Programme. It was an amazing experience to interrelate with astronauts, guest lecturers, scientists and facility managers of such esteemed organisations and simultaneously being captivated by the astonishing hardware and experiments.

I would like to acknowledge the enthusiastic support that I received from Robert Simpson head of the Department of Manufacturing Engineering and John Lawlor, Head of the School of Manufacturing in Dublin Institute of Technology."

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