University of Wisconsin-Stout senior Taylor Thomas believes in shooting for the stars and keeping an eye toward innovation.
The dual major — applied mathematics and computer science, and information and communication technologies — has had an internship this summer at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. The internship was part of UW-Stout’s Career Services Cooperative Education Program. Cooperative Education is part of a nationwide university program that integrates career-related work experience with academic coursework. To learn more, go to the Cooperative Program website https://www.uwstout.edu/academics/career-services/cooperative-education-program.
The Forest Lake, Minn., native is part of the Joint Polar Satellite System simulator project. JPSS is a cooperative project between NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration using polar orbiting satellites to study the climate and help forecast patterns of severe weather, such as hurricanes or wildfires.
Thomas works on a team making sure satellite simulators are fully functional and that data collection is fully tested before launch. The paid internship began June 4 and ends Friday, Aug. 10.
“As a software engineer I want to help improve people’s lives or help break technology boundaries,” said Thomas, who expects to graduate in December 2019. “It’s interesting to see how these satellites might be able to save people’s lives by predicting the weather or where a storm might go. The technology NASA is working on is fantastic.”
Thomas appreciates the internship’s educational and job-shadowing opportunities. “In the beginning there was a steep learning curve,” Thomas said. “I spent a lot of extra hours learning.”
He will start another paid internship Monday, Aug. 27, with NASA at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. That internship continues until Dec. 14. He is working to also make that part of Cooperative Education Program at UW-Stout. “The work is similar to what I am doing now, testing and working with different framework technologies.”
He will work on developing software for a launch control system used with rockets.
Jocelyn Richardt, a UW-Stout computer science and mathematics lecturer, is thrilled Thomas has a second opportunity at NASA. She recommended him for the first internship. Thomas worked as a supplemental instructor in Richardt’s Introduction to Programming class for two semesters and also has taken a Data Structures course from Richardt.
“Taylor truly enjoys programming and understanding the finer details of logic,” Richardt said. “I would fully expect that his dedication and hard work would translate to becoming an excellent programmer as an employee.”
Applied mathematics and computer science program director Terry Mason, a professor of computer science, said Thomas is a highly energetic and committed student. “NASA will use his foundational math skills along with his applied programming and networking skills,” Mason said of Thomas. “They will open his eyes through experience to see how to use these skills in cutting edge technologies.”
Thomas said the internships are important to “make sure the first job I get is something I enjoy and that I can grow in it and like it.” He would like to work full time for NASA.
“I have learned about working 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.,” he added. “My goal has been to search into a deeper understanding of the latest and greatest technologies. It’s all been a wonderful experience.”
He first applied at NASA his sophomore year. He didn’t get an internship but wasn’t dissuaded. This past February he applied for 15 positions throughout NASA. “I got to see my old application and what I had done in the past year; it grew three times, which was a confidence booster,” Thomas said.
While at UW-Stout, Thomas helped start two student organizations, a chapter of Students Today Leaders Forever and Information Security Professionals. Students Today Leaders Forever is a volunteer organization that provides leadership opportunities and encourages students to become catalysts for positive change in their schools and communities. The group takes a cross-country trip to volunteer with projects across the nation. Information Security Professionals is a club focused on cyber security awareness and professionalism, giving students an opportunity to gain knowledge in the field.
Thomas has helped start two businesses as well. He and two friends co-founded CryptoQuarry, a cryptocurrency mining cooperative designed to assist small companies and investors. He was working more on administration than his true interest, software development, so he resigned from the company in February.
In March, he and two friends started Cryptmos, a financial technology consulting company that utilizes machine learning algorithms and top-tier modeling techniques to perform financial analyses. “Our aim is to provide a platform that solves the human element of fintech,” Thomas said. “By using historical and real-time data, we can achieve a high level of accuracy and efficiency through both our quantitative and qualitative models. With the inclusion of sentiment analysis, we provide a true, complete picture of the analyses performed.”
Top: UW-Stout senior Taylor Thomas applied for 15 NASA positions in February. He enjoys learning about the latest and greatest technologies.
Bottom: Jocelyn Richardt