Nick Poehler, a decorated senior swimmer for the Bears, spent this past summer differently than most of the other cadets. Instead of serving on a USCG cutter or as a campus cadre, Poehler went to NASA where he was an intern hired to work on a training project for future astronauts.
“This was my favorite duty I have had yet,” Poehler said. “We went through hours and hours of video of EVA missions – a term NASA uses for spacewalks - and identified specific tasks so that they could be used to create a reference database for training future astronauts. For example, we would take the video of an astronaut entering or leaving the airlock. That video would be used to teach proper body positioning and techniques to finish that motion safely and effectively.”
As part of his project, Poehler had the opportunity to work closely with Dr. Anna Fisher, who serves as the Capsule Communicator and was a recipient of the NASA Exceptional Service Medal in 1999.
“At first it was a little intimidating talking with astronauts that have twenty years of experience, which have been up in space, but then you get used to it and realize they are just another person.”
Poehler, who is third in his class with a 3.9 GPA studying Mechanical Engineering, won the 2009-2010 NEWMAC Rookie of the Year Award, was named to the 2011-2012 All-Academic team, and who is a member of the Coast Guard club water polo team, is used to having a lot on his plate.
“Balancing sports and school is definitely difficult to do. It’s all time management. You have to look forward and see what you can get ahead in, or see what is most important and do what is that first. With practice, you know you have it every day, and skipping it is not an option. You get your work done when you can.”
After being at the Coast Guard Academy for four years, and filling that time with his many accomplishments, Nick knew he was prepared for such a big opportunity.
“Here, you have training, class, homework, and sports. While I was there, my only job was the project, so it was even a bit more relaxed for us. They were really impressed that we got the project done - they figured that we would have gotten it started. We finished with a week to spare, so the final week was a lot of sight-seeing.”
Poehler hopes to go to flight school after graduation in May and continue to study aeronautical engineering in graduate school in hopes of one day returning to NASA, perhaps even on a mission.
“If they continue space exploration, I would love the opportunity to go up. That would be an incredible experience,” said Poehler.