[Editor’s note: This story is part of an ongoing project in conjunction with the South Plains College Alumni Association. The project highlights former SPC students and their achievements.]
From directing plays, to designing the space vessels of the future, to designing tools used in deep sea exploration is how one South Plains College alum expressed his creativity.
Raised in Quinland, Easton Day started his career at SPC with a major in theatre, an area that was familiar to him after having been part of the SPC theatre program since he was 12 years old.
“When we were just visiting West Texas, I would be part of the theatre program in the summers with my dad and step-mom,” Day said. “Growing up, I’ve always been kind of right-brained and more creative than anything. And I’ve always loved theatre.”
During his senior year of high school, Easton’s step mother, Janna Holt-Day, began teaching at SPC, moving their family to Levelland, Texas where Day finished high school.
Nearing completion of his associate’s degree at SPC, Day took time away from school to handle financial problems. During his time away from school, while working full time, he began to realize that he had developed different interests.
“I realized that I was not really missing theatre,” he said. “I missed certain aspects of it. Whenever I was out of school, I started developing interests in astrophysics and engineering, which is something that I love. I realized that with those interests , and a nice paycheck, engineering was the way to go.”
Day says that when he was not attending college, he realized that he had a dream to work for NASA. When he returned, he talked to the then head of the Math and Engineering Department for advice and discussed SPC’s connections to NASA.
“There definitely was a way that I could create this route to get there,” Day recalls. “He gave me his opinion and how I could use SPC’s connections. I enrolled in school again and started in engineering and set those goals for myself to complete.”
One of the connections that Day was told about was Community College Aerospace Scholars, or CCAS. He explained that it would be the initial connection he needed to make with NASA.
“I worked very hard to be invited to that trip,” Day said. “Once I was accepted, my next goal was to win the competition [building a unique robot used for planetary exploration]. We killed it. Not only did we win the competition, but we outscored any other previous teams at any competition that they’ve had.”
Day had completed his goal to get the attention from NASA that he and his teammate needed.
“If I set my mind to it, 99 percent of the time, I’m going to achieve it,” Day said. “The competition was something that I set my mind to. I had no doubt that I would be invited for the internship. Dr. Anderson, the director, loved to say that I always reminded him of a bull dog. If I sank my teeth into something, I’m never letting go.”
Day spent a total of five years at South Plains College, figuring out what exactly he wanted want to do for the rest of his life. He also says that his favorite part about attending SPC was the relationships he was able to develop with professors.
“They are there for you,” Day said. “This isn’t always true outside of SPC. For that reason, it’s easy to have respect. If you’re willing to learn and you’re willing to ask for help, there’s no chance that they are not going to do what they can do to help you succeed.”
Following the semester he graduated from South Plains College, Day began a sixth-month internship with NASA’s Orion Cockpit Working Group at the Johnson Space Center.
During his internship, he contributed to the design of the interface of NASA’s newest developing space capsule, Orion.
“I worked designing some of the components of the cockpit,” Day said. “There are many Orions across the states right now. They are all used for different testing purposes. The one I worked in was for astronaut training.”
The Orion spacecraft is currently being designed as a new means of transportation for astronauts, and is on track to take humans to Mars within the next 20 years.
Day says that the experience he was able to receive at the Space Center was rewarding in many ways.
“The best part about it is going to be when I see Orion fly,” he explained. “I’ll finally get that feeling of ‘I helped get man to space.’ If it lands on Mars, that will be the first time humans have landed on Mars, and I’ve been able to contribute to that.”
Currently, Day works for Oceaneering International Incorporated, designing Remotely Operated Vehicles that are used in deep-sea exploration, surveying for the oil industry, and even for entertainment.
After graduating from Texas Tech University with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, Day utilized the connections he had made to begin working with Oceaneering as a sub-sea engineer.
“With my personality, there’s really only two types of work I would enjoy doing and can stick with,” Day said. “It’s either space, or sub-sea. I like the two extreme environments.”
Day says his current goal is to learn as much as he can and continue building his resume by exposing himself to more opportunities.
“To succeed in school and to succeed in the workplace, it requires drive,” he said. “Just to get the engineering degree itself is no easy accomplishment. You have to be dedicated, and it has to become your life. If you want it that much and it’s something you’re passionate about, it can be easy.”