USFSP students illustrate children’s book for NASA • St Pete Catalyst

Like many children in Central Florida, Andrea Coloma grew up fascinated by space and dreamed of working for NASA; unlike most teenagers, she has already achieved that goal.

Coloma, a 19-year-old sophomore at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, recently completed illustrating an educational children’s book for NASA’s Space Communication and Navigation (SCaN) program. The achievement was the result of her fifth and final internship with the organization.

Her parents immigrated to the United States from Ecuador, and the graphic designer felt she needed to secure a professional internship to prove that an art career could pay the bills. As a high school senior living outside of Orlando, Coloma focused on the two most significant local companies she could think of — Disney and NASA.

“I literally just looked up ‘graphic designer NASA’ on LinkedIn and emailed a bunch of people that came up,” said Coloma, 19. “I think I messaged like 30 people, and the only person who got back to me was my mentor. , Molly Kearns.”

Andrea Coloma visited the Kennedy Space Center as a 7-year-old. She has since completed five internships at NASA.

Kearns is a digital media specialist with SCAN at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. She organized a meeting with Coloma and some of the facility’s graphic designers, which led to a shadow position on the policy and strategic communications team.

Despite being fresh out of high school and new to the world of design, Coloma proved to be a quick learner. At the end of that summer, Kearns asked her to illustrate a newsletter page highlighting the interns’ achievements.

“I was obsessed with one side all summer,” Coloma said. “Because at the time I had no professional experience at all.”

The experience proved the financial viability of an art career, and Coloma enrolled in USFSP’s graphic arts program in fall 2021. While she noted that her family in Ecuador was already ecstatic after seeing the newsletter on Facebook, Coloma’s role with the space agency continued to grow.

She said officials “must have been pleased” with her work because the Orion Communications team at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston invited her to participate in a virtual animation internship. Coloma noted that she learned how to complete basic animations a few days before the interview.

The session went so well that the Orion team asked her to return for another internship. They also commissioned Coloma to create three one-minute children’s animation videos explaining how the Orion spacecraft would use a distant retrograde orbit during Artemis I.

A USF release notes that the first woman and person of color will land on the moon in 2025 as part of NASA’s historic Artemis missions.

“It’s a pretty big deal to be published by NASA,” Coloma said. “I mean, it was huge for me and my family. It makes me feel more confident that I’m going to succeed — and hopefully continue to succeed in this career.”

In addition to illustrating an educational children’s book about the Artemis program, Coloma animated three short videos explaining how the Orion spacecraft would complete the first mission.

Coloma said she learned to “trust the process” through the first few internships. She noted that some aspects of her work looked a little rough at first, but she gradually honed her skills.

Despite adjusting to living away from home for the first time and finishing his freshman year of college, Coloma continued to find success at NASA. The policy and strategic communications team asked her to return to where it all started last summer, this time to illustrate the entire newsletter.

Coloma explained that she chose a visual direction, looked up art styles, and then tweaked the look based on feedback. She felt comfortable illustrating at the time and said the endeavor proved to be “a bit challenging” yet rewarding.

She completed the children’s book in her fifth internship in the fall semester of 2022. It highlights SCAN’s role in the Artemis I mission, which successfully returned to Earth on December 11. A USF release noted that NASA plans to publish the book this year.

Although nothing is official, Coloma hopes to continue working with the space agency this summer. She is also interested in experiencing other work environments and said her primary focus is building her portfolio as part of USFSP’s graphic design program.

Regardless of what happens next, Coloma shared the importance of making his parents proud.

“It’s hard when you come here as an immigrant,” she said. “It was a struggle for a while and they worked really hard to give me all the things I have now. So just doing things they can be proud of is a great feeling.”

See the entire newsletter here.


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