For many high school students, summer is a welcome break from learning, when they shelve their books and escape from any school-like setting. But before the school year officially closed, incoming senior Drew Thompson (who identifies as non-binary and prefers the “they” pronoun) at Interlake High School in Bellevue was looking for opportunities to keep their mind sharp.
During Thompson’s research, they stumbled upon NASA’s Datanaut program, which is hosted primarily online and takes participants through educational data science modules and connects the chosen “datanauts” with industry professionals. Those who are selected for the program are generally college students or college graduates already working in the field, so Thompson was shocked and excited upon getting accepted.
“I’m still a little surprised,” Thompson said. “I respect NASA, and I’m excited to get to work with people that are part of a program that is really impressive to me.”
Thompson has been involved with their schools’ robotics clubs since middle school, which was a vehicle for learning more about programming. Thompson also has been interested in learning “R,” which is a programming language, and was difficult to learn on their own.
“I know I’m not really able to learn it on my own as effectively as I am with a community,” They said. “R is something that’s typically used for analyzing large sets of data, and I find it difficult, because it’s structured differently than other languages.”
After high school, Thompson is interested in studying oceanography and marine biology, and is excited to research data that relates to the natural world. Observing and resolving environmental problems is at the top of their interest list, and what better way to study it than with the use of data, they said.
On August 19 and 20, Thompson will be in Washington D.C. meeting Thompson’s community of datanauts in person for the first time, which is when the program will really kick-off and will then continue into the fall.