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One Little Step for Degree, One Giant Leap for Profession

As a graphic design trainee, you might anticipate to get a foot in the door with a magazine or ad agency, maybe even a tech firm … however NASA?

Orlando Bustos released his style career by landing an unique internship through UNLV.

It was 2013. Bustos, a senior at the time, had been working on his bachelor of arts degree at UNLV with an emphasis in graphic style when a brand-new program captured his attention. The bachelor of science in graphic style and media integrated elements of digital media, interface design, 3-D imaging, animation, and other areas of graphic style that were not highlighted in the B.A. degree that was being phased out.

Although he was on track to finish that year, Bustos changed to the new program, despite the fact that it meant an extra year of classes.

“I believed the brand-new classes UNLV would offer– like 3-D making, web design, and designing for touchscreen tablets– would be more useful to my profession, so I took the opportunity to read more,” Bustos said.

He included one more task to his brand-new final year’s order of business: get an internship. And amongst the companies he might intern with was NASA.

Helga Watkins, then the acting director of the fine arts department, reached out to him about the opportunity to work for the distinguished area research study organization. However there was one catch: Bustos would need to move to Huntsville, Alabama.

Since it was his final year, a lot of Bustos’ classes were studio-based, needing him to be physically present. But since the unique opportunity to intern at NASA was too good to pass up, Bustos encouraged his professors to let him complete his classwork remotely.

“The whole department was extremely valuable and supportive,” Bustos said. “They enabled me to complete my classes online and report back to my professors.”

With that, Bustos jetted off to Huntsville as an intern in the Mentor-Protégé Program (MPP) that had actually just recently formed in between UNLV and Teledyne Brown Engineering, a NASA contractor. His objective: help redesign training materials used in NASA’s International Spaceport station program.

“A great deal of the training that NASA products to the International Space Station came in the form in PowerPoint and Word documents– just black text on a white background and a lot of charts to check out,” Bustos stated. “Teledyne’s goal was to make the training more interactive so that it could be self-taught.”

The MPP initially required UNLV computer technology interns. However agents from Teledyne and their Las Vegas-based subcontractor Arcata Associates quickly realized that if the training was to end up being more interactive, a substantial visual part would be needed. So the UNLV College of Engineering got together with the College of Art to send out an interdisciplinary team to Alabama.

Bustos was signed up with by UNLV undergraduate Tom Le, a computer technology significant, and postdoctoral scholar Marissa Owens from UNLV’s College of Education. Owens guided the group’s work from an education and e-learning perspective, laying out all of the training content; Le handled the programming; and Bustos produced all the associated graphics, video, photography, animation, and other media. The team developed visually-driven, interactive, and self-contained materials that users might download and review whenever of day or night, participating in self-guided study instead of sitting in a class for eight hours a day.

Thanks in part to the team’s excellent work, the MPP was acknowledged with 2 NASA awards: a NASA Mentor-Protégé Program Involvement Award and a Small Company Subcontractor Quality Award.

The recognition caused UNLV becoming an official subcontractor to Teledyne in addition to a brand-new contract in between UNLV and Lockheed Martin. It also resulted in Arcata CEO Tim Wong hiring Bustos full time in 2015, prior to the NASA internship ended.

“The program progressed into something much larger than it was at first intended to, and Tim Wong had a lot to do with that,” Bustos said.

Bustos is still a multimedia designer with Arcata Associates, but he’s remained in Huntsville, where he continues working on training products and other multimedia projects to support the International Space Station.

“Due to the fact that UNLV taught me a little bit of everything, I have actually been dealing with every aspect of training products– animation, video modifying, TV production, conferences, photography, worksheets– adding anything I feel is advantageous,” Bustos stated. “If I had not made that degree switch, I ‘d most likely be a big action or two behind where I’m at now.”