Crafting the Future
Micah Prendergast ’13 designs flying vehicles at NASA internship
(July 15, 2013)
It takes off like a helicopter, but flies like an airplane. It’s an aircraft of the future, and was imagined, designed and built in part by UNC Asheville alumnus Micah Prendergast ’13.
Prendergast didn’t quite expect to be helping the engineers at NASA Langley Research Center develop futuristic flying vehicles—it wasn’t his primary area of expertise. He studied ground-based robotics in his mechatronics engineering major at UNC Asheville, and before that he earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from UNC-Chapel Hill.
“I think it’s nice to have a little bit of liberal arts and little of the hard science. One without the other, then you’re limited in what you can do and what you can understand,” Prendergast said. “Balance is key.”
Prendergast’s broad range of interests and studies made him uniquely suited to create unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for NASA, from designing the concept to actually building the prototype. The idea was to create the kind of vehicle the skies of the future might see, so that NASA can simulate and prepare for the air traffic those vehicles would cause. Prendergast’s work earned him an invitation to return to Langley for a second internship, funded by the NC Space Grant Consortium. He even got to see his creation fly.
With a UNC Asheville diploma and two NASA internships on his resume (not to mention an internship at Pisagah Astronomical Research and Science Education Center), Prendergast is heading to University of Colorado Boulder, where he’ll turn his focus from robots of the ground and sky to the exciting and gut-wrenching science of bioengineering.
“I’ll be developing endoscopic robots for crawling inside of your gastrointestinal tract.”