Jaron Edsitty cleans a piece of the LADEE satellite he created on NTU’s Z corp 650 machine during a process called rapid prototyping. Edsitty created the model for an internship he did through NASA’s Ames Research Center.
CROWNPOINT, NEW MEXICO — As NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) launched into space for a 100-day scientific mission last September, Navajo Technical University (NTU) digital manufacturing major Jaron Edsitty watched in awe from the Wallops VIP launch section after spending the past two years modeling the satellite as a NASA intern.
Edsitty was assigned the project in 2011 through an internship with NASA’s Ames Research Center that required him to model a rough PDF file of the satellite utilizing reverse engineering software and machinery at Navajo Technical University’s main campus in Crownpoint.
“When he started out all he was given was a 3D PDF file of the satellite,” explained Gregory Dodge, instructor and advisor at NTU. “It wasn’t much to work with, but Jaron was able to use Pro E software to create every component of the satellite from that single file.”
During his first summer working on the model, Edsitty spent much of the eight week internship forming triangulations in Pro E to create a file readable by NTU’s Z corp 310 printer to produce the model through a process of rapid prototyping. Because Edsitty had to create the figure from scratch, the model was never completed, and so Edsitty worked on his own time to modify his files to include more detail and information.
NTU digital manufacturing major Jaron Edsitty of Window Rock, Ariz. presents his model of the LADEE satellite at the LADEE launch on September 7, 2013 at NASA’s Wallops Visitor Center.
As Edsitty was doing this, NTU obtained a newer 3D printer in the Z corp 650, which allowed Edsitty to refine his project for NASA by incorporating color and detailed parts such as solar panel cells and bolt holes within the satellite’s structure. The progress of the work allowed NASA to extend the internship into 2013, and eventually earned him an invite to present his model at the Wallops Visitor Center for the LADEE launch on September 7, 2013.
The launch drew close to 1,500 VIP guests, including NASA astronauts Charlie Duke and John Grunsfeld, who invited Edsitty to watch the launch with NASA Ames site director Dr. Pete Worden and other VIPs.
“Many of the engineers and technicians that worked on the actual LADEE satellite were commending Jaron and Navajo Tech because they said it was the most accurate model anyone had ever created,” said Dodge. “It was a good experience for Jaron to interact in that setting, but it was also good for the school because people got to see what we’re capable of doing.”
Being able to work for an agency such as NASA was something Edsitty never thought he was capable of accomplishing, but after working on the LADEE satellite model, he realized that there’s so much more on his horizon.
“This is something I never expected to be doing,” said Edsitty, who originates from Window Rock, Ariz. “One astronaut I met said that NASA has a job waiting for me once I graduate, and it got me thinking about what I’m doing. I came to college to benefit my family and with work like this I’m making an positive influence on my daughter and my younger siblings.”
“Seeing what one person can do can influence people and let them know that anything is possible,” continued Edsitty. “It’s important to let them know that there’s more out there. That’s the main reason I went to school and that’s the main reason I try to excel.”
Navajo Technical University has placed a student for an internship at each of NASA’s sites throughout the country. NTU’s digital manufacturing program in information technology offers a Bachelor of Applied Science degree and provides training in laser scanning, 3D modeling, and rapid prototyping.
For more information about Navajo Technical University’s digital manufacturing program, contact H. Scott Halliday at [email protected] or call 505.786.4100.