It started, as these things do, with Star Wars.
Two years ago, Alexandra Forsythe visited Fort Wayne’s Science Central, where she saw a working R2-D2 robot.
“I am a big Star Wars fan, and I always thought it would be cool to build my own R2-D2,” she says.
So she taught herself how. Forsythe, a dual credit student at Ivy Tech Community College’s Fort Wayne Campus who keeps her working R2 in his own private garage at home, used the knowledge she gained in building the robot to snag herself an internship at NASA this summer.
During her 12-week internship, she worked on a circuit board that will be used by a rover, allowing it to land autonomously and safely. She’s not yet sure where this NASA rover will travel—NASA hasn’t announced it yet—but she guesses it will go to the moon first, and then maybe to Mars.
This circuit board was considerably different from the boards she created for R2. For one, the rover’s board required special components, like a shielding cloth to protect it from radiation and pieces that allow it to fly in space.
Her internship wasn’t all circuit boards, however; she learned about ferrite beads (a hollow cylinder or bead made of iron oxide used to filter how much high frequency electromagnetic interference noise is found in electronic circuits) and the math that goes into assuring an object is space-ready.
“When you take an internship at NASA, it’s not so you can help with a special project,” Forsyth says. “It’s so you can learn things.”
And she taught them, too: NASA asked her to present her R2-D2 to the team. (She blogged about the presentation and shared a brief video, which you can view here.)
Forsythe is a home-schooled high school student from Huntington. Last year, she took a public speaking class at Ivy Tech’s Fort Wayne Campus—once, she presented her R2 in the class—and she’s currently enrolled in physics.
“Oh, I love it,” she says of the College. “Public speaking last year was incredible. (My physics professor) makes physics really interesting, even though it’s a five-hour class. He makes it so it’s cool, and I love that. I love it when a professor can keep my attention.”
She has also taken classes at Indiana Tech and Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne. Her goal, she says, is to test out different colleges in an effort to figure out where to study when she graduates high school.
“I’m waiting to see how the scholarships fall,” she says. “I still want to take classes at Ivy Tech.”
To learn more about Forsythe, check out her blog.