Alijah DeAndre Smith spent hours as a child building things with Legos. Now a junior majoring in aerospace engineering sciences at CU-Boulder, he is delighted to be working on real spacecraft.
“I have always loved space,” says Alijah. “My mom took me to Florida when I was in fourth or fifth grade and I stood under the Saturn 5, an impossibly huge rocket.”
“I’m also good with my hands,” he says, giving credit to his father, a master electrician who works at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. “He could answer any questions I had about how things work so I know how to do a lot of things—car maintenance, electrical, tiling, plumbing.”
Alijah has been working since January at CU’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP), which hired him to calibrate and test components of instruments that will be flown in space as part of the MAVEN project. The mission of MAVEN, which is short for Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN, is to explore the upper atmosphere and ionosphere of Mars, and study its interactions with the sun and wind.
He is working on both the Extreme Ultraviolet (EUV) and the Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph (IUVS) instruments on MAVEN, and currently is testing light intensifiers that will be going in the IUVS.
Alijah says he used to wonder when he would use the various concepts he was learning in class. “Then, here I am at LASP, and I’m using that math in the professional world. It gives a context to everything, and it makes school interesting."