Wheeling Park High School graduate Ronan Butts is spending his summer testing components that will be used on rockets that may travel to the moon or Mars.
The 2019 Patriot Graduate is doing his internship at SpaceX in Hawthorne, Calif. Butts is a senior at West Virginia University, and he expects to graduate in the fall. His success was recently highlighted on WVU’s Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources Feature Friday.
Butts is studying aerospace and mechanical engineering as a Mountaineer. He is a member of the WVU Microgravity Research Team, and its current work focuses on spraying titanium dioxide-based sol-gel inks for in-space UV radiation shielding. He was named a NASA Scholar through the NASA WV Space Grant Consortium Undergraduate Affiliate Fellowship Program to conduct a research project he proposed on investigating the surface energies of these sol-gels.
Butts is in his second week at his internship, and his work involves component testing on the SpaceX Starship. He is quite excited about the work he is doing.
“It’s awesome so far,” Butts said. “It’s a lot of responsibility, but it’s been amazing. I’m walking through a building where rockets are being built, so it’s hard to describe, really. I’m doing what I love.”
Butts was a student at Steenrod Elementary School and Triadelphia Middle School before attending Wheeling Park. He said he received an excellent education in Ohio County Schools, and what he learned prepared him well for college.
Butts said he had outstanding teachers at all grade levels, but Wheeling Park teachers Sue Hvizdos, Aaron Fedorke, Mike Harris, Joyce Jingle and Christie Greenwood inspired him. He also said what he learned from Wheeling Park head football coach Chris Daugherty and offensive line coach Tim Ickes also meant a lot to him. Butts said his extracurricular activities, such as football and “Young Patriots” choir, were very important in preparing him for college and life.
“I learned so many skills,” Butts said. “I took a lot of engineering, math, software and design, and then team activities taught me how to work within a group. I was really involved, and I always kept busy. I learned to handle a lot of things, and I learned to accomplish things with others.”
Butts had his first internship at Touchstone Research Laboratory in Triadelphia through the Community Foundation for the Ohio Valley (CFOV) Community Leader Internship Program. Butts said he was able to get an interview at SpaceX through the experience and connections he gained at Touchstone, and he was very fortunate to start his engineering career so early. He believes it played a big role in his achievements.
Butts is the Secretary of the WVU Chapter of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). He has been involved in helping young students build gliders to get them excited about a career in engineering, and he gave a presentation on how to succeed in engineering interviews. Butts is a member of Sigma Gamma Tau, a National Aerospace Honorary Society.
Photo: Ronan Butts is shown in front of the Falcon 9 rocket at SpaceX. The Falcon 9 is the first orbital class rocket to ever land itself.