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An out-of-this-world internship

From Federal Computer Week reporter Ben Bain:

Summer is intern season. Well, NASA's Ames Research Center has taken that to whole new levels by hiring an intern in the virtual world known as Second Life.

Nothing quite like an internship where ones flies through the air by flopping your arms, you have to create a new identity name and recreate his appearance – and, of course, you are expected to play computer games all day and build a model of a crater on Mars.

NASA's Ames Research Center in California recently chose an intern to help with its CoLab project, its virtual island in the virtual world "Second Life."

The lucky University of Arizona student is going to spend his summer designing models of for NASA in the virtual world as well as working to shore up interest in CoLab and encourage collaboration from people traditionally outside the space community.

Through CoLab, software experts are working to create 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 can serve as models for their real-life counterparts. CoLab's founders say that they are considering a certificate system that would reward people who contribute ideas used in NASA projects.

The intern is going to be working on several projects that involve building models that can be used to recreate 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 along with the NASA's Mars rover as it explores.

Andrew Hoppin, CoLab's community ambassador and co-founder of the program, says that CoLab is hoping to extend the internship after the summer, even once school starts up again.

Some details:
* The intern's Second Life name is Cozmo Yoshikawa.
* Hoppin, one of CoLab's founders says that a lot of the best applications they got from this came through Facebook where NASA Ames advertised the openings.
* Cozmo Yoshikawa will be modeling the international space station, model it in 3-D inside and out.

Posted by Christopher Dorobek on Jul 20, 2007 at 12:16 PM


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