Holly Jackson has accomplished more before she finishes high school than many students have by the end of their graduate careers.
The series of events that led to her internship at NASA Ames started when she was in 6th grade, with her first science fair. For a 7th grade science fair, she designed a robot that fires billiard balls to scientifically assess how the cue ball affects other balls during the break and other shots. Her 8th grade experiment involved sewing – testing the strength of a variety of stitching techniques, materials, and threads. It took her to the state science fair and then to a national one, the Broadcom MASTERS, in Washington DC. She won the competition, met the president of the United States, and – perhaps most significantly – met the Ames Chief Technologist. Harry Partridge invited her to tour Ames and meet researchers doing work related to her interests. The visit eventually led to her internship in Kenny Cheung’s lab.
On joining Cheung’s lab, Holly immediately began working on truss structures, the unifying theme of both her work at the lab and her collaborations with Ben Jenett and others in the lab. Her first project involved mastering the software and then developing a program to model different truss structures. Then, inspired by seeing the cross-section of a bird bone, which she observed had a dense lattice in areas subjected to pressure when the bird lands but is otherwise delicate and light, she began working on concepts to subtract material or change the components in order to alter the qualities of a truss. On Dr. Cheung’s suggestion, she adopted her current technique, the use of genetic algorithms to select which voxels to subtract from the structures.
Her current work has direct application to Jenett’s project, but in the future might influence other structures, including the Mission Adaptive Digital Composite Aerostructure Technologies (MADCAT) project led by Sean Swei and Cheung.
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