, Muskogee, OK

Local News

April 14, 2014

Next stop NASA for science student


Seeing the

fun in science

Keck’s interest in science grew through homeschool and Hilldale.

His home science lessons came through A Beka curriculum. He recalled watching lectures on VHS.

“If we had any questions, I’d ask my dad,” he said. “As I got older, my dad helped me with a lot of electrical projects we did.”

Hilldale teachers helped Keck’s interest grow.

“The faculty at Hilldale, starting from grade four, was just a string of excellent science teachers,” he said.

He recalled Fridays when his fourth-grade teacher Betty Blackwell would have a science quiz based on the “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” show.

“She would make it fun to know science,” he said. “She would have somebody up there, and whoever got the questions would get increasing amounts of candy.”

Keck said he got up to question No. 8 once and won another time, winning two full-sized candy bars.

Keck also recalled sixth grade, when he rode a hovercraft made by a high school science teacher, George Swanson. The hovercraft featured a circular board atop big blowers used with the wiggling men seen at car dealers or events.

“He’d just strap that thing onto it, so it was blowing a bunch of air underneath,” Keck said. “That allowed that thing to become a hovercraft. The disk hovered above the ground, and you could put a sixth-grader on it.”

His high school biology teacher, Richard Martin, also had an impact.

“He and I got along really well; he would ask me to help with the science experiments he was setting up. That was tons of fun for me, just getting to play with all these science instruments and Bunsen burners.”

A dream

come true

The NASA Mars rover Curiosity piqued Keck’s curiosity about how real-time operating systems work.

Such curiosity led him to get a NASA internship this summer at Marshal Space Center in Huntsville, Ala.

“What inspired me was watching the Curiosity rover land,” Keck said. “Mars is so far away it is not possible to control a spacecraft from Earth. So what they had to do was make that entire landing sequence autonomous, with no human interaction.”

Keck applied for the internship in December by filling out information and posting a personal statement on why he wanted to be a NASA intern.

“For a long time, I was getting daily emails whenever new intern positions were posted,” he said.

Keck said his first choice was a session on real-time operating systems.

“Real-time operating systems are the systems that power your car or fighter jets or NASA’s Curiosity rover,” he said. “It is a highly scheduled operating system that makes sure vital calculations are done on a certain deadline.”

Keck also applied for 14 other internships. He received two calls and did two phone interviews.

“But those weren’t the ones I wanted the most,” he said

Finally, he got a call from Huntsville, offering the real-time operating system internship.

He said he will spend 10 weeks, starting in June, working on a spacecraft.

“I’ll be helping create the logic for how the spacecraft will operate, putting it in code,” he said. “NASA has a really good history with their software.”

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