Jaden Chambers

Bio:  Jaden is a NASA Pathways Intern at the Kennedy Space Center. He is currently a junior attending the University of Central Florida in Orlando. Leading up to this position, he was involved in engineering organizations, participating in competitions such as Aviation Design, Quadcopter Design and the NASA Big Idea Challenge.

Name: Jaden Chambers

Education: 3rd Year Student at the University of Central Florida

Profession: Mechanical Engineering

Years of Experience: 2 years

When you were a child, did you envision becoming what you are now?

For as long as I can remember, I have always been into technological innovation. When I was in elementary school, I was involved in an engineering organization known as SECME (Science, Engineering, Communication, Mathematics, and Enrichment), where students participated in various projects ranging from bottled rockets to mousetrap-powered cars. Since I was very young at the time, I was not thinking about how these opportunities were shaping me for the future. I was doing the projects merely because I enjoyed them. As I got older, my interest in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) field began to flourish, and as I began to develop goals for my future, my strong desire to achieve my aspirations evolved. I personally believe that the mindset of having something to work towards is very important to have. You should not work just to work; you should work doing something that you enjoy. I never would have guessed that I would have the opportunity to intern at NASA as a sophomore in university. If I would have told myself that NASA is unattainable at my current phase in life, my chance of being accepted would have been eliminated. By focusing on strengthening my repertoire in the present to prepare myself for the future, I was slowly developing myself for success. 

Can you please tell us about your journey? When did you first think to yourself, “I made it”?

I will never forget how I felt when I received my acceptance email. The whole situation felt surreal for the first couple of weeks. It didn’t really hit me until I created my first LinkedIn post, providing a glimpse into some of the obstacles I had to overcome, that I realized how big of a deal this was. What started as a post with around 100 views soon skyrocketed to 5 million views in about a week. I received overwhelming feedback and opportunities from individuals ranging from TV show hosts to podcast speakers. Professors and teachers reached out for me to speak to their classroom and asked if they could include my post in their curriculum. Graduate and undergraduate students began to reach out to me for advice on how to succeed in their careers. There was one parent that messaged me saying that they showed my post to their kid and he responded, “he looks like me!” It was unbelievable that I had the opportunity to reach so many people at once. I never realized how many people could relate to my adversity, and I’m so glad that I was able to make an impact on their lives.

Did you face any challenges on your journey to get where you are? Do you currently face any challenges?

Absolutely! There will always be people who try to drag you down, regardless of your aspirations or work ethic. Throughout high school, the way I spoke, dressed and acted would constantly be referred to as ‘white’. There were many occasions where I was referred to as an ‘Oreo’, since I was perceived as “black on the outside and white on the inside”. Meanwhile, individuals who did not know me well would tend to follow up conversation with “which sports do you play” or “you would be great at basketball”. For some reason, academic success was seen as a ‘white’ thing, while sports were understood as ‘black’. Both academic and athletic success should be seen as achievable for everyone, regardless of their ethnicity. You cannot allow others to place you into a box, especially when your goals are right outside of it.  

What skills do you believe a person needs to succeed in your profession?

In my opinion, communication is the #1 skill an engineer should possess. This encompasses working in teams, presenting ideas clearly and inquiring information, all of which are 3 essential aspects of engineering. Once you graduate with your engineering degree, you will be competing with many equally qualified engineers who will desire similar job positions as you. If you did the bare minimum, went to university and just did schoolwork the entire time, what makes you stand out from the other individuals that accomplished the same feat? Some might think high grades are what differentiates individuals, but from my experience, employers look for much more than that. An ‘A+’ does not define a person, it is just a mark on paper. Yes, grades show work ethic and determination, but during interviews, employers want to know about you as an individual and tend to look for people that stand out. By boosting your communication skills, refining your ability to work in teams and developing the ability to clearly and concisely get your ideas across, you are providing yourself with the essential foundation for success.

What advice would you give to others who aspire to be where you are?

Do not sell yourself short, be involved and be yourself. When I applied to NASA, I really didn’t think I was qualified enough to stand a chance. While I had some experience in engineering projects, I was only in my 2nd year of University and my grades were not anything to brag about. However, my knowledge in the field from the various opportunities I took combined with my ability to socialize ended up providing a significant advantage. Doubting yourself is the worst thing you can do and can cost you many amazing opportunities. The only guaranteed failure you have is refusing to try, so put yourself out there and don’t be afraid to stand out.

Can you please share one goal you achieved that you are extremely proud of?

Being able to inspire others has been my biggest achievement. Never in a million years would I have thought that I’d become a role model for so many amazing people worldwide. I truly hope that I can continue to provide an impact on their lives and give them hope for the future.