Aeronautics and Astronautics, MISTI

Planes and parafoils, canals and bicycles

Jessica Fujimori, Global MIT

By day, she programmed a simulator to test an autopilot system for parachutes. By night — and on weekends — she explored, bicycling through narrow streets, past canals, and through the dunes on the beach.

Lyndsy Muri '15 spent her summer in the Netherlands through MISTI, an MIT program that matches students with internships abroad. As an Aeronautics and Astronautics major, Muri was excited to work in the Aircraft Systems division of the National Research Laboratory in Amsterdam.

"They had designed an autopilot system for parafoils — that's a fancy term for parachutes," Muri says. The system could be used to direct the plane where to drop a parafoil so it would land in a specific location, which could be helpful for humanitarian purposes — delivering aid from above — or for military use. The lab had previously created a computer program that could simulate the autopilot system on the parafoil. "With the simulator, they could do testing on it without actually launching," Muri explains.

Throughout the summer, Muri worked on redesigning and improving the simulator and writing a user manual for its use. By the end of her internship, the simulator was up and running. "We would program the location and the targets, tell it the wind data, and see what the autopilot actually did," she says. "I also interfaced it with Google Earth so you could actually see its flight — so, if you dropped it in Spain, you could see it drop and then float to the Netherlands, say."

Most of her workplace used English, but Muri did run into a few linguistic challenges. "Some of the MATLAB code comments would be in Dutch — but I just got really familiar with Google Translate," she says with a smile.

In casual conversation, though, Muri could hold her own in Dutch. Her mother was born in the Netherlands, and she grew up surrounded by the language and culture. "It was really cool to go back to my roots," she says.

Outside of her internship, Muri took every opportunity to explore her surroundings. Her favorite place was downtown Amsterdam. "It's just beautiful, with all of the canals and skinny roads and bikes," Muri says. "Biking around is awesome. I also went to the beach quite a few times — you could even bike through the dunes!"

By now, Muri is a veteran traveler; she spent the previous summer in Kenya with the MIT start-up Takachar, researching ways to turn organic waste into low-cost charcoal for energy.

"I think the summers and different experiences I've had abroad stand out in my memory as some of the best experiences of my life," she says. "MIT has all of these opportunities, and I tell freshmen and sophomore all the time — take advantage of them, every single one. Really push yourself, and see what else is out there."