Control car of the blimp on display in the museum

Control car of the blimp on display in the museum.

This summer, Skyline College student Wai Hnin Oo was one of two community college students selected by Base 11 for a paid summer internship at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. Her job: to carefully inspect, take apart, clean, treat corrosion, and reassemble two engines from an historic Goodyear blimp as part of the museum’s Preservation and Restoration Unit.

“I’m appreciating the hands-on experience the most,” said Wai over the summer, “like turning, wrenching and securing bolts. I haven’t had much experience using hand tools, so in the beginning my fingers were stiff and I took a long time to do very simple jobs because I wasn’t accustomed to the tools.” But by the end of the summer, she and her teammate David Jung from East Los Angeles College finished both engines and helped move them to a display at the museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, where it can be seen by 1.6 million visitors a year.

Engine Wai worked on

The IO-360D engine that Wai worked on during the summer.

In the process of taking apart and reassembling the machines, Wai learned exactly how internal combustion engines work. As a side project, she reviewed historic engineering documents and the 1977 movie Black Sunday, which featured the blimp, and then used her own creativity to propose how old TV racks could be reconstructed and showcased in the gondola.

Throughout the summer Wai also received mentorship from members of the museum’s Preservation and Restoration Unit (PRU) and met with conservators and curators of the museum. “I enjoyed talking to different people in the PRU and learning about their backgrounds and jobs,” Wai said. “They are very passionate and knowledgeable about their specialities, and they inspired me to work harder toward my goal of becoming an engineer.”

This fall, Wai transfered to UCI to study engineering, and she hopes to continue getting hands-on experience through classes and internships in the industry.


Applications for Base 11’s 2018 summer fellowships are now open. Visit