Student enjoys co-op experience with NASA

Student enjoys out-of-this-world co-op experience with NASA

By University Communications
August 9, 2012
Justin Nelson enjoys out-of-this-world co-op experience with NASA

Photo: UW-Stout Spotlight Photo

University of Wisconsin-Stout student Justin Nelson had a goal for the summer of 2012.

“I didn’t want to get a regular summer job. I wanted to get out there and use my education, put what I’ve learned so far to the test,” he said.
It’s fair to say he succeeded. Through UW-Stout’s Cooperative Education program, Nelson has been an aeronautics research associate for 10 weeks, starting June 1 and ending Friday, at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.
The junior-to-be from Rhinelander, who is double-majoring in game design and development along with applied mathematics and computer science, truly tested the education he has received.
Nelson, eight other students from the U.S. and one from England, helped research the feasibility of and test an aeronautics concept created by a NASA engineer. “The math is so unbelievable — it was scary but cool,” he said, noting that one program developed by NASA they worked with had more than one million lines of code.
His math background was important, but his classes in game design and development helped him get the co-op, he said. He used computer programming skills learned at UW-Stout to test the concept on simulators — similar to a video game setup — in a cockpit-style lab at Langley. The lab had three simulators; two were individually set up, each with five touch screens and three regular monitors, he said.
The student presented their findings in late July in Washington, D.C., to the administrator of NASA and director of Airspace Systems. Nelson and others each had a chance to speak.
As part of the program, students were flown to California for a week to visit other NASA aeronautics facilities.
Justin NelsonThey also watched with special interest Monday’s landing of NASA’s rover Curiosity on the surface of Mars. “It was a remarkable feat for NASA,” he said.
“We learned a lot of aeronautics. I could not have asked for a better summer,” Nelson said, adding that NASA has offered him another job to continue his summer research.
A record total of 876 UW-Stout students had Cooperative Education work experiences last year through Career Services, which works with 500 employers. Nelson earned two credits for the co-op course.
Other UW-Stout students also have worked with NASA recently. Last spring an industrial design class worked on space module living concepts for Marshall Space Flight Center. In 2009 two co-op students worked at Glenn Research Center in Cleveland.
For more on UW-Stout’s applied math and game design majors, go to and For more information about UW-Stout’s Cooperative Education program, go to