Josh Johnson, an intern for OceanGate, stands between two of the company’s submersibles on Wednesday, May 23, 2018 in Everett, Wa. Johnson, who graduates from ORCA this spring, has been tasked with constructing a 3D printer for the company.(Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Josh Johnson, an intern for OceanGate, stands between two of the company’s submersibles on Wednesday, May 23, 2018 in Everett, Wa. Johnson, who graduates from ORCA this spring, has been tasked with constructing a 3D printer for the company.(Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Exceptional grad: Josh Johnson is aiming for NASA

He plans to major in computer science at the University of Washington on a grant from NASA.

This is one of a series of profiles of exceptional high school graduates from Snohomish County. They are among the thousands of students graduating this spring, each with their own story of academic achievement, creativity, leadership and determination.

EVERETT — Josh Johnson’s summer job is way more intriguing than last year’s spent working at a golf course.

As an intern for OceanGate, an Everett company that builds submersibles, he’s been tasked with constructing a 3D printer.

His school, the Ocean Research College Academy (ORCA), brought Johnson down a non-traditional high school path, where he studied math and physics while examining the marine environment. This propelled him into unforgettable experiences, including working with OceanGate and presenting his senior research project at academic conferences.

“I grew up on the beach, but didn’t understand why certain things happened,” said Johnson, 18, who graduates from ORCA this spring. “It was really cool coming to the school and understanding the environment.”

Johnson and his family moved to Camano Island from California three years ago.

This fall, Johnson will take a leap toward his dream job — an engineer for NASA — by attending the University of Washington on a grant from the space agency. He plans to major in computer science.

Johnson relishes the challenge of starting from nothing and creating a finished product. He eventually wants an engineering job that combines his interests in software and hardware.

Johnson received his first telescope in elementary school. Since then, he has logged many hours past his bedtime waiting for a break in the clouds to get a glimpse of a rising planet.

For his senior research project at ORCA, Johnson analyzed two million data points, collected by instruments he helped maintain. Johnson then spent more than a 100 hours writing code to model how freshwater and saltwater mix in estuaries.

Johnson said the scariest part of the academic conferences was the Q-and-A segment at the end of each presentation.

“Who knew what they were going to ask,” Johnson said. “My biggest fear was getting asked questions I couldn’t answer.”

The scientists went easy on him, he said.

Unlike the day-long interview and the three essays Johnson completed to earn a highly competitive NASA space grant.

“That was a bit tense,” he said.

Lizz Giordano: 425-374-4165; egiordano@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @lizzgior.

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