Recently, two Tech students and a student from the University of Kentucky were selected to represent their employer, Jacobs Engineering of the NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston in Washington, D.C. Tech co-op students Anthony Piplica and Chris Sanders traveled to D.C. on May 19th to speak with members of Congress about the importance of space exploration.

“Jacob’s interviewed its co-ops in support of JSC and selected three to attend the DC trip,” said Anthony Piplica, a third-year AE major who is currently doing his fourth co-op tour with Jacobs Engineering .

“We were tasked with meeting with the offices of a number of Georgia senators and representatives, including Atlanta Representative John Lewis. While we usually met with staffers, we did meet with a few actual members of Congress. Our main goal was to inform them about the importance of NASA’s mission of space exploration, and the need for a fully-funded NASA budget. We shared personal anecdotes as well as information about NASA’s impact on the Georgia economy and NASA spinoffs.”

NASA was established on July 29, 1958 as an organization of the U.S. government. Since it is a government agency, Congress controls this program’s budget allocations. Since 2005, NASA has seen a very slight increase in its budget. The current budget for NASA’s 2008 fiscal year is about $17 billion, which is only 0.6% of the nation’s nearly three trillion dollar budget. NASA has always sought to be a source of inspiration for “the next generation of explorers.”

“Personally, I found this to be a very rewarding experience as I was given the unique opportunity to represent not only my company and my school, but also by fellow co-op civil servant and contractor who were not able to make the trip,” Piplica said.

“I learned a great deal about the processes involved in the US government, especially as they pertained to NASA. It was good to see that almost every office was very supportive of NASA and understood its importance.”

In 1912, Tech introduced the Cooperative Education Program, or co-op, becoming the fourth school to offer this form of education. This program is a five-year plan which allows students to alternate between semesters of study and semesters of full-time work. With about 2,700 students participating, Georgia Tech’s co-op program is the largest program of its kind in the United States. Many students choose to work for their employer after graduating.

For more information on NASA, visit www.nasa.gov