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News . Feature Stories . Game design skills landed her a NASA internship


August 15, 2019

Game design skills landed her a NASA internship

Sara Horoiwa portrait

Sara Horoiwa, pictured at her NASA internship

By Elizabeth Wayne

Sara Horoiwa graduated in 2019 with a major in Game Design. She spent the summer as an intern at NASA Glenn Research Center, putting her education to work in the graphics and visualization lab. There, she helped make 3D models of spacecrafts for demos in virtual reality and augmented reality so that users can experience phenomenon such as anti-gravity or walking on the surface of Mars.

On July 25, NASA selected Sara alongside nine others nationally to represent them for National Intern Day.

How did you find the NASA internship?

Through CIA, I had the opportunity to attend the yearly NASA University Day event at the Glenn Research Center, where students can tour the research center and learn about internship opportunities. I thought it would be a great opportunity to take advantage of CIA’s connections to the Glenn Research Center and apply.

What’s the best part of your experience?

Using the skills I’ve learned in game design and putting them toward totally unique and new educational experiences. VR and AR open up a lot of new possibilities for not only games, but also educational experiences like these. A lot of visitors have never had the chance to experience VR or AR before, so when they come and engage with our demos, I feel very grateful for the opportunity to have contributed to that experience.

Has the internship given you new ways to look for inspiration?

I find that sometimes creative inspiration comes from things that aren’t related to art at all. At NASA, I was surrounded by a lot of employees and fellow interns who focused on STEM-related subjects [science, technology, engineer and math], and this made it an entirely different environment from CIA. Being surrounded by people with different interests has helped me to put my own work into perspective, and made me realize that art is necessary in every type of environment.

What has been surprising about the experience?

The most unexpected aspect of my internship is that I never knew who I was going to be meeting on a daily basis. I’ve gotten to put VR headsets on little kids as well as seniors, sometimes for the first time in their lives. Not only that, but I’ve even gotten to meet astronauts!

There is a wealth of knowledge to be learned from every single person I’ve met or worked with at NASA.

One piece of advice for others seeking internships?

My advice would be to explore and learn as much as you can about available opportunities, even if you think a certain company might not have anything to offer in your field of interest. My internship at NASA lined up perfectly with my goals as a game designer, but I would have never thought to look at NASA specifically for a game design job. You may find a good fit for you at an unexpected place, so it’s important to take your time to research as much as you can. The Career Services office can also help you with your search.

What is one thing you learned about yourself through this experience?

The culture of a workplace is important to me. Every workplace has a different culture, and that can affect how much you feel that you fit in. It’s a good idea to consider what kind of people you enjoy working with and being around.

What's next for you?

I'm very happy to say that I've accepted a second, longer internship with the NASA Glenn Research Center. I will be working on a series of new 3D projects for them until December. I'm very grateful for the opportunity to continue working at the Glenn Research Center, making cool things I love!

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