Students Found Beauty and Elegance in Their NASA Experience

By Colleen O’Brien


July 20, 2019 is a big date in Science – or so the folks at NASA would say. It’s NASA’s 50th anniversary of its successful Apollo 11 Moon mission.


Six recent graduates of Millburn High – Javier Coindreau, Max Koenig, Francis Rose, Andrew Chen, Claire Yan, and Darcy Gruer – one might say, celebrated that anniversary a little early. As Team Mercury, they were chosen to go on a week’s all-expenses paid trip to Kennedy Space Center, June 29-July 3, for their winning NASA App Development Challenge video.


The students’ video was a simulation of the real-time July 2nd stress test launch of NASA’s Orion crew module. The students’ “handles” on their video were names such as: Coder Man, Model Dude, Nameless, The Director, The Editor, and Android.


In a test known as Ascent Abort-2, on that July 2nd day, NASA verified the Orion spacecraft’s launch abort system. There’s a tower on top of the crew module that can steer the capsule and astronauts inside it to safety in the event of an issue with the Space Launch System rocket. The launch went to an altitude of 31,000 feet at Mach 1.15 (more than 1,000 mph). Said their engineers, the launch is a step towards getting back to the moon by 2024.


Watch the “Launch of Orion Spacecraft Ascent Abort-2 Test” at


The students had competed against 22 teams, and got selected along with a team from Tulsa, Okla.


“So if you’re truly passionate about science, just stick with the rough parts,” said Coindreau, “knowing that those parts will allow you to see the big picture and make connections that you wouldn’t be able to otherwise. Even if they seem like hard subjects, which they often are, all that does is make it so much more enjoyable when you’re able to use and apply those hard-earned skills into something impactful.”


He continued, “Oftentimes the sciences can seem hard and boring initially, but getting through those topics allows you to eventually see nature in a whole new light. Science and math have immense beauty and elegance, but it takes time to really appreciate that.”


In the Fall, Coindreau will be headed out to Northeastern University for Computer Engineering & Computer Science, Francis Rose will be going to Boston University for Biology, Andrew Chen will be at Purdue University for Aerospace Engineering, Max Koenig will be going to Cornell University for Mechanical Engineering, Claire Yan will be at Vanderbilt University for Computer Science, and Darcy Gruer will be on the University of Maryland College Park campus for Aerospace Engineering.


Coindreau is pursuing the NASA Pathways internship, he said, “which is a half-study half-work internship, because it aligns well with the timing of the co-ops that Northeastern offers.”


Andrew Chen started his internship mid-May, leaving high school three weeks early. He’ll finish the internship, where he’s at Langley Space Center doing 3D designs for spacecrafts and rockets, early August. He’ll be able to start college on time.


“The good thing about NASA,” said Coindreau, “is that due to the amount of internships thy offer, there’s always something that will match up with whatever time schedules you’d want.”


Coindreau added that Team Mercury had seen the film Hidden Figures as part of their curriculum for their introductory Space Exploration class in high school. He said the most surprising part of the film was noticing the “extreme amount of people it took to get just a single person to space, much less to the moon.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.