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Who Do the Rocket Scientists Go to When They Need Help? Shippensburg University Students!

Who do the Rocket Scientists go to when they need help? Shippensburg University students.

When NASA needed help gathering data about water around its launch facility in Virginia, scientists turned to Shippensburg University students. For years, the University’s geography/earth science students have been helping monitor water quality, important to the Wallops Island launch facility.

Guided by geography/earth science professor, Dr. Sean Cornell, students collected data by physically retrieving water sensors and taking them into the lab for data download. The process was problematic. Often sensors would break or disappear in rough weather and months of data collection was lost, and retrieving the sensors disrupted the water around them impacting the data results.

So, Dr. Cornell turned to his colleagues, Drs. Carol Wellington and Tom Briggs, in Ship’s computer science and engineering department. The solution; permanently stationed sensors that relayed real-time data to scientists on land. The fact that the technology for such a solution did not exist was the real-world engineering problem Dr. Wellington and her students were looking for.

“Here we have our students in our major and they understand the data, but they don’t know the technology and likewise the engineers don’t understand the data, but they understand how to get it into a usable format. That’s what is really cool about this,” said Cornell.

Ship’s computer engineering students created a wireless network by building a series of circuit boards that use sensors to gather data. The mechanical engineers tackled securing sensor housing to withstand rough saltwater conditions. Software engineering students built a web site that visualizes the data so scientists can identify patterns. And the computer science students are building data mining algorithms looking for long term trends and effects like climate change.

The project solves a specific problem for NASA, but the implications are far reaching. The group sees broad uses for the new system not just locally, but globally. And students have valuable experiences to take into their careers. “The NASA project exposes me to a real-world experience that I know I couldn’t get anywhere else,” said junior software engineering major Nahesha Paulection.

Dr. Cornell sees first-hand the irreplaceable impact on learning. “What Shippensburg is offering students is the physical connection to the ocean and the world and providing real solutions for problems that are only going to get worse.” It’s the kind of educational experience Ship aims to create for every student.

The World Is Ship’s Classroom

Shippensburg University’s academic programs are designed to meet the world head on. Like the water sensor project, they are innovative, affordable and use real-world practices to prepare students for success. With 13 accredited programs and a 20 to 1 student-to-faculty ratio, Ship offers a quality and personalized educational experience.

Superior Academics

Meeting the projected needs of the workforce, Ship now offers programs in sustainability and entrepreneurship. The entrepreneurship major cultivates the business owners of tomorrow. Sustainability offers a unique combination of sustainability skills with geotechnology and geographic information systems skills.

Excellence is the standard for Ship’s academics. The John L. Grove College of Business is internationally accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. Ship offers program standards you won’t find at universities in your region like its accredited communication/journalism and criminal justice programs. Ship’s ABET accredited computer science, computer engineering and software engineering programs are uniquely committed to balancing hands-on and theoretical learning. Industry experienced faculty guide students to apply real-life practice using industry-standard equipment from the beginning of the programs.

Going beyond the classroom, Ship offers one-of-a-kind resources for students including the Center for Land Use and Sustainability, a stock trading room, centers for entrepreneurial leadership and innovation, a fashion archives and museum and the only public elementary lab school in the state.


Shippensburg University proudly serves the state's public education mission by making college an affordable investment. Each year, Ship awards more than $76 million in grants, scholarships, student employment and loans.

The Heart of the MidAtlantic

Shippensburg University is located about an hour south of Harrisburg. It sits in the center of the East Coast’s major metropolitan areas making Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington D.C. and New York accessible options for students to visit and intern. Ship is a member of the 14 university PASSHE state school system.

Visit Ship

Ship students and alumni say that beyond the classroom, it’s the lifelong friendships and relationships that set Ship apart. See for yourself. Schedule a visit at

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