An out-of-this-world internship
Summer is intern season. NASA’s Ames Research Center has taken that to a whole new level by hiring an intern in the virtual world known as Second Life.

There is nothing like an internship in which you fly through the air by flapping your arms, you have to create a new name  for yourself and re-create your appearance — and, of course, you are expected to play computer games all day and build a model of a crater on Mars.

A lucky University of Arizona student will spend his summer designing models for NASA in the virtual world. He will also be working to bolster interest in NASA Ames’ CoLab project and encourage collaboration from people outside the space community.

Through CoLab, experts are creating open-source software called CosmosCode that NASA can use in its projects. Eventually, CoLab leaders plan to build a real-world facility in San Francisco where interested parties can collaborate with NASA.

But before NASA invests the resources to build the real-life CoLab, organizers are relying on weekly meetings open to the Second Life public.
CoLab’s founders say the virtual island has been an affordable way to test many of their hypotheses, increase NASA’s transparency and reach people outside their usual circle.

Second Life avatars can use basic building blocks called prims to create detailed structures that serve as models for their real-life counterparts. CoLab’s founders say they are considering a certificate system that would reward people who contribute ideas used in NASA projects.

The intern will work on several projects that involve building models that can be used to re-create NASA missions and explorations.

He is already working on building a model of Mars’ Victoria crater on the CoLab virtual island that will allow avatars to follow NASA’s Mars rover as it explores. 

Andrew Hoppin, CoLab’s community ambassador and co-founder of the program, said CoLab is hoping to extend the internship after the summer and into the next academic year. 

Some details:
  • The intern’s Second Life name is Cozmo Yoshikawa.
  • Hoppin said many of the best applicants came through Facebook, where NASA Ames advertised the intern position.
  • Yoshikawa will model the International Space Station in 3-D inside and out.
USDA’s CFO also gets CIO hat
Charles Christopherson Jr. has been selected as the Agriculture Department’s chief information officer in addition to retaining his role as chief financial officer. He replaces Dave Combs, who left the CIO position last month.

The Senate confirmed Christopherson as USDA’s CFO in November 2005. The CIO role does not require Senate confirmation, the agency said. Christopherson has successfully led several joint initiatives between the CFO and CIO offices. Deputy CIO Jerry Williams and Deputy CFO Patricia Healy will support Christopherson in his dual roles.

“Christopherson has been an integral part of the USDA team in his role as the CFO and has demonstrated a ‘get it done and get it done right’ attitude,” USDA Secretary Mike Johanns said in announcing Christopherson’s new role.

Christopherson said his goal was to focus more effort on ensuring that financial and nonfinancial systems and business processes help USDA agencies accomplish their missions.

“We will continue to focus our efforts on protecting the sensitive data held by USDA, improving our IT systems security, providing better technology to the USDA programs that serve our citizens, and leveraging the synergies of the Offices of the CFO and CIO,” he said.

He received a bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University and a master’s degree from the Oregon Executive MBA program, a consortium of the business schools at three of Oregon’s largest public universities.


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