The Electrical Engineering Technology program was instrumental in preparing me for success at NASA. It gave me the technical knowledge I needed, and helped teach me how to think about and approach challenges.
Thomas Nelson Community College graduate Jacob Tury completed an apprenticeship at Hampton’s NASA Langley Research Center in March and has accepted a position as operator and programmer of an eight-axis carbon fiber placement robot called ISAAC, or Integrated Structural Assembly of Advanced Composites.
One of only three such robots in the world when commissioned at NASA Langley in 2015, the multi-million-dollar system was built by Electroimpact Inc., according to NASA’s website. With the ability to fuse ribbons of carbon fiber and epoxy into sheets of material following precise or curving patterns, ISAAC gives NASA Langley an advantage in the drive to develop lighter, stronger composite structures and materials for aerospace vehicles.
Securing this new position brings things full circle for Tury. He recalls having seen ISAAC while on a class trip at NASA Langley with Thomas Nelson’s Electronics Technology Program Head Deborah Lichniak. “I hope to be the best technician I can be while helping to expand our understanding of astronautics and aeronautics. I’m grateful that my new position as an operator and programmer … The ISAAC robot will put me on the cutting-edge of composites research,” said Tury, thanking Assistant Professor Lichniak for her role in his higher education journey.
“In the short term I want to learn as much as I can about programming the ISAAC robot. Over the next five years I hope to make myself an indispensable part of the team.”
He completed Thomas Nelson’s Electrical Engineering Technology program and graduated in 2015. “I was hired into NASA Langley Research Center’s Pathways Employment Program as an engineering technician while at Thomas Nelson. The Electrical Engineering Technology program was instrumental in preparing me for success at NASA. It gave me the technical knowledge I needed, and helped teach me how to think about and approach challenges,” he said
A Williamsburg resident and Ohio native, he turned to Thomas Nelson in 2011 aiming to improve himself and expand his career options by earning a degree. He was always interested in how things work so researched career paths and found that Electrical Engineering Technology sounded the most fascinating. Pleased with the decision to return to school, he took evening classes while working full time. “I wasn’t happy with my job at the time ... Thomas Nelson helped me to realize what opportunities were available on my career path and gave me the skills I needed to reach them,” said Tury.
Although working full time and attending classes left little room for extras during his time at Thomas Nelson, Tury participated in several Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) outreach events and camps including Thomas Nelson’s Nuts, Bolts and Thingamajigs STEM summer camp. An avid swing dancer with expertise in Balboa and the Lindy Hop, he also participated with the College’s Ballroom Dance Club when time permitted and is still active on the swing dance scene in his community. “I enjoy helping to organize dances, events and teaching beginner dance lessons. I’m also involved in a Boarder Morris dance group. We dance at various public events such as the Richmond Easter Parade and the Mariners Museum’s Yorktown Pirate Festival,” said Tury.
He counts being afforded the opportunity to join NASA’s Pathways Intern Employment Program as his best experience as a Thomas Nelson student and thanked Assistant Professor Jean Frank, Head of Technical Studies with Specialization in Industrial Studies, for encouraging him to apply. That experience allowed him to work as an engineering technician using the skills and knowledge he learned at the College. “The apprenticeship provided me with a broad range of experience and skills. It allowed me to gain a positive reputation within NASA that contributed to being selected to work with ISAAC,” he said.
Tury is grateful for the expertise of Thomas Nelson faculty members he encountered. “Professor Deborah Lichniak has been a very big inspiration to me. She can be a very demanding instructor, but her passion for electronics and her students is contagious,” he said. “I am also very thankful to Professor Jean Frank for encouraging and inspiring me to apply for NASA’s Pathways Intern Employment Program.”