PASADENA, Calif. - Ben Province, 21, of Mineral Wells is finishing his last week of a 10-week internship with NASA at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
A Parkersburg South High School graduate and West Virginia University senior, Province has enjoyed the experience of working for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
Province is majoring in mechanical engineering with a minor in computer science.
Ben Province shows the lightness of the aluminum wheel of Scarecrow in California.
Scarecrow maneuvers over simulated Mars rocks at JPL Mars Yard in Pasadena.
Although he is modest about the opportunities he has been given, he spares no emotions in his excitement to have received them. Province became interested in robotics because he likes making things and seeing them work, he said.
In his internship with NASA, Province is working in the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.
"I designed a system of tools for visualization of mobility for the Mars Science Laboratory," he said.
The Mars Science Laboratory is the name of the design of Curiosity, which is now on Mars. Province is working with a version of Curiosity called Scarecrow.
With Scarecrow, Province is able to drive over rocks and have all the maneuverability of the space craft, resembling being on Mars.
A motion capture system retrieves the data of the position and suspension of the rover.
"Basically what I'm doing is a laser scan," said Province. "I feed into the computer the animation scripts, and it makes a CGI (computer generated image) animation of the rover driving around Mars."
Province started out in a program at West Virginia University called "RockSat." He developed a payload for a suborbitable sound rocket, applied to NASA, and got a call from JPL in California.
He said he never expected to be called by NASA after filling out the application. He had a telephone interview and was asked to take part in the opportunity.
Province said he was excited about having the privilege of working at JPL for the summer.
"I had hoped that I'd end up in as cool a place like JPL, but never thought I had a good chance," said Province. "JPL is the only facility that NASA has with deep space robots. It's really exciting."
Other students from WVU landed internships with NASA, but none were in California. Province said there were four or five other WVU students at test facilities in Virginia, Ohio and Maryland.
Province participated in a rocket launch at WVU before leaving for his internship. A payload he designed for WVU was put on a rocket and launched from the Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops, Va.
His parents, John and Treva Province, visited him in California a few weeks ago.
"They decided to do a cross-country motorcycle trip and make their way up to JPL," said Province.
Province is eager to release his findings in the internship to the public.
"There's one class you have to get through to get documents to be released to the public," said Province. "Once my final paper gets approved, I'll be able to send those (on a public platform)."