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Nate Jensen: From Skutt Catholic to NASA

Alumnus recounts how hard work can pay off

Nate+Jensen+%2815th+over+from+the+left+with+the+brown+goatee%29+pictured+with+fellow+UNL+students+at+the+launch+site+for+the+payload.
Nate Jensen (15th over from the left with the brown goatee) pictured with fellow UNL students at the launch site for the payload.

Nate Jensen (15th over from the left with the brown goatee) pictured with fellow UNL students at the launch site for the payload.

Photo by NASA

Photo by NASA

Nate Jensen (15th over from the left with the brown goatee) pictured with fellow UNL students at the launch site for the payload.

Zoe Clark, Copy Editor

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With a school motto of “Make a Difference,” it’s no surprise that Skutt Catholic has amazing alumni doing just that in the world today. Alumnus Nate Jensen is no exception, having sent a payload into space alongside fellow UNL students and NASA.

“All that work came to a close when, in the early morning hours of Sunday, March 25, the payload was launched into space aboard a NASA rocket,” said Skutt Catholic Class of 2014 alumnus Nate Jensen. “The rocket breaks the sound barrier in less than a second, and it’s in space in less time than it takes to order a pizza.”

Jensen interned at NASA last summer and plans on doing so again this year. Despite majoring in Mechanical Engineering and being a member of the Skutt Catholic robotics team all four years of high school, achieving this dream did not come easily. In fact, when he first applied, fresh out of high school, Nate didn’t expect to get in. And to be fair, he didn’t.

“Between the first time and the when I actually got accepted, I submitted 26 or 27 applications that were rejected,” said Jensen. “Believe me, somewhere between 15 and 16 I thought about giving up. I’m glad I didn’t, though, because you know what they say: ‘The 28th time’s the charm.’”

Jensen said that keeping his options as wide as possible was what ultimately led him to engineering. He was in band for three years, mock trial for four, and robotics for four, and he tried to do well in all of his classes. Despite his claims that he lacked natural talent in math and science, he cites his love of the subjects as well as the abilities of his teachers for giving him the push towards his dreams.

This open-mindedness led him being a well-rounded individual both in school and at work.

“You’ll find that the best people you work with will be able to go toe-to-toe on math, science, literature, theology, and everything in between,” said Jensen. “It helps to be one of those people.”

Before interning at NASA, Jensen’s first internship in the engineering world was at VEX, the company that creates the games and parts for the robotics team he was a part of in high school. In reference to that internship, Jensen says that it “Felt like I was giving back to the same competition that had helped me grow into the engineering student I have become.”

“At this point, my career path has been ‘robotics competition to mechanical engineering college to robotics internship to NASA internship to… I don’t know,’” said Jensen. “I’ve pushed myself towards a vision of someone picking up my resume and saying, ‘We need this guy to build a Mars Rover,’” Jensen continued.

Jensen calls NASA the most amazing experience of his life. Everyone there is at the top of their field, and there is a purpose to everything.

“Want to meet some of the best aerospace engineers on the planet? Walk down the hall, second door on your left,” said Jensen. “Want to see the largest, most powerful wind tunnel on the planet, responsible for qualifying parachutes for landing on Mars? Look out the window, down the street,” he continued.

Everyday, humanity learns more about itself and its place in the world by studying the stars, and now Jensen is taking part in that quest.

“To explore is to be human, and space is the final frontier for that exploration,” Jensen said.

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Clark - Copy Editor

Zoe became a member of The Flightline in August of 2017. She is a junior this year involved in robotics, academic decathlon, and many other electives, and spends what little free time she has reading. You can email her at [email protected]

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