This April I was fortunate enough to travel to NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland Ohio, where I, along with 42 other community college students, from all over the Midwest and New England, participated in 2017’s NASA Aerospace Scholars Program. During the four-day program we formed teams, in which we established fictional aerospace companies that were tasked with coming up with a business plan, designing a prototype rover, and competing for a NASA contract for the next Mars rover mission.
Our prototype rovers competed in two challenges where they had to retrieve rock samples and rover parts on a simulated Martian terrain. Each team member chose a role in our company, some as engineers, some as financial managers, and some even as Social Media marketing specialists, and we all performed our individual jobs to make our company successful.
Additionally, we enjoyed touring NASA facilities, meeting NASA engineers, project managers, educational outreach coordinators, and many other employees, as well as learning about internship and career opportunities at NASA. It was truly an eye and door-opening experience I feel blessed to have been part of, and it almost didn’t happen!
See, I’d never heard of the program until it was forwarded to me by my advisor. I took a curious look and was intrigued, but I felt panic when I learned the deadline for spring application was the very next day! Fortunately, I was able to scramble all my materials together in time to submit my online application, and was selected for the first part of the process (A five-week online course)
Fortunately, if you, like me, are interested in a STEM career field, the program takes place every semester, at 6 different NASA centers across the country including Johnson Space Center, Kennedy Space Center, Langley and Jet Propulsion Laboratories. This year, over 500 community college students were accepted into the program, and 348 were invited to come to various on-site NCAS experiences across the country.
You can submit all your materials online. They require you to be a US citizen and community college student, who has taken, or is currently taking nine hours of STEM coursework. The best part is the course is practically free! (All that’s required is a $30 check for the on-site portion of the program); NCAS covers hotel, flight to the center, and feeds participants during the program.
The deadline to apply for the fall program is May 2nd, but if you miss that, you can always apply for next spring’s program. So, if you are interested in a career in engineering, mathematics, physics, or any science, the Aerospace Scholars Program could be your foot in the door at NASA, or just a great experience working with fellow STEM students and real NASA mentors.