Community college students from across the east coast are descending on the Shore March 2 – 6, 2020, to engage in engineering activities and explore the many research activities at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.
Thirty-two students from 16 community colleges will take part in the NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars (NCAS) program. This is the third year NCAS, a science, technology, engineering and math or STEM engagement activity, has been implemented at Wallops.
Over 524 college scholars from across the nation who are interested in STEM completed a five-week, self-paced, online learning experience engaging them in NASA’s six research and exploration themes, including Artemis, NASA’s next step in human exploration of our solar system to see the first woman and next man land on the Moon by 2024.
From the pool of over 500 students, 32 community college scholars from Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, and North Carolina, who have excelled in the online learning experience, were selected to participate in a five-day onsite at Wallops. Many of these students attend Minority Serving Institutions.
While at Wallops, the scholars will collaborate in teams to compete in an engineering design challenge. NASA subject matter experts from all STEM disciplines will mentor the teams. The scholars will design and build prototype Martian rovers using LEGO EV3 robotics kits and will prepare a marketing package to present in an attempt to “sell” their design to NASA.
The NCAS program includes briefings by NASA personnel, information on how to apply for NASA internships, and a tour of Wallops’ unique facilities including the range control center, aircraft hangar, balloon research and development lab, and sounding rocket payload facility.
On Wallops Island, the students will have the opportunity to tour the Horizontal Integration Facility, where Northrop Grumman integrates the Antares launch vehicles, and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s Pad 0A, where the Antares is launched.
NCAS engages the nation in NASA’s mission by helping students make the connection between a STEM degree and career opportunities, while also motivating students to participate in other competitive NASA projects, programs, and internships. NCAS is funded by NASA’s Minority University Research and Education Project or MUREP and encourages community college students to finish their 2-year degree and pursue a 4-year degree or career in a STEM field.
The MUREP funds NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars and is committed to engaging underrepresented and underserved students in STEM with authentic learning experiences to sustain a diverse workforce.
With this activity, NASA continues the agency’s tradition of engaging the nation in NASA’s mission and leading an innovative and sustainable program of exploration to enable human expansion across the solar system and to bring back to Earth new knowledge and opportunities.
“NCAS not only inspires community college students to advance in STEM fields, but it also opens doors for future careers at NASA. NCAS alumni often move on to NASA internships and ultimately enter the NASA workforce. It is rewarding to see the progression of a student from NCAS participant to NASA colleague,” states Torry Johnson, MUREP Manager.