Daily News

ThursdayJuly 2, 2015

Cincinnati State student is getting a dose of rocket science at NASA camp

When Tina Schirmer gets back to campus this fall, she’ll be able to write one heck of an essay on how she spent her summer.

It would have been enough for Tina to describe her co-op experience with Balluff Inc., a German company that makes industrial sensors. She works in Technical Support, answering inquiries from customers and occasionally working on applications.

It’s a nice fit for Tina, an Honors Scholar at Cincinnati State who is triple majoring in Mechanical Engineering Technology/ Design, Electro-Mechanical Engineering Technology/ Laser, and Pre-Engineering.

But as terrific as it is, her co-op experience will likely have to share time with the adventure she’s scheduled to begin next week: a month at a NASA camp in Cape Canaveral, Fla. for 20 college freshmen and sophomores from across the country. There, Tina and her fellow students will not only be studying rocketry, they’ll be building – and launching – Level 1 (beginner) and Level 2 rockets and earning the accompanying High Power Rocket (HPR) certification.

“I have never done anything like this before, but have always dreamed about working at NASA,” Tina said. “I am extremely excited now that I actually will be doing it!” 

Tina, who lives with her family in Greenhills, was homeschooled from grade school through high school, and said she suspects she didn’t have access to all the hands-on classroom lab experiments that her counterparts in traditional schools enjoyed. That’s part of the reason she chose Cincinnati State, and part of why she’s enjoyed her experience here so much. In addition to the full scholarship afforded by the Honors Program, Tina said, she was attracted to Cincinnati State because it allowed her to start taking classes pertaining to her major during her first semester on campus in the Fall of 2014.

The opportunity to participate in NASA’s inaugural “Launching 2 Learn” program came up rather suddenly, when one of her professors, David Simmermon, learned about it and encouraged her to apply. There wasn’t much time before the deadline, and Tina wasn’t at all confident she had nailed the application.

“When I found out I was accepted, I was completely shocked – and extremely excited,” she said.

Even though it has been more than half a century since Americans sat glued to their television sets as men such as Alan Shepard and John Glenn were hurled into space from the Florida coast, Tina says she appreciates the significance that Cape Canaveral holds in American history.

“I am still awed by those amazing feats,” she said. “I have always dreamed of working at NASA.  One of my childhood dreams was (and kind of still is) to become an astronaut.  The history of the place is inspiring just to think about, and to be there will be even more so.  It will literally be a dream come true to tour NASA and spend a month working there.”

Just in case the astronaut thing doesn’t work out, Tina still has her original plan quite firmly in mind – graduating from Cincinnati State, earning a bachelor’s degree in an engineering field of some sort and, most likely, going on to earn a master’s degree.

But for right now, the biggest thing in Tina Schirmer’s future is building big, powerful rockets, and then shooting them up into the Florida skies.