NASA offers educational program for community college students

For science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) community college students, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) offers a chance to experience STEM careers first-hand.

As part of their National Community College Aerospace Scholars (NCAS) program, students take a free five-week online course that includes discussions with NASA employees, quizzes, as well as completing our homework assignments.

The program aims to encourage students to complete their two-year degrees or transfer to a four-year institution and pursue a NASA-related career or field, according to their website.

“This is a great opportunity to help build their understanding and allows them to make powerful connections to the NASA mission in the work that NASA does and the people at NASA,” said Dr Winsome Brooks. , activities coordinator for NASA’s Johnson Space Center. “It’s a good stepping stone for anyone looking to pursue a STEM-related career.”

Photo by Josh Valcarcel, courtesy of NASA.

To apply for the program, eligible students must be over the age of 18, have a high school diploma or equivalent, be enrolled in a community college, and remain available to fully complete the five-week course. Additionally, students must write an essay about their goal for the program and provide a letter of recommendation from a professor.

For selected students who demonstrate academic achievement during the online course, they have the option of visiting a NASA center for four days.

Last year, 1,300 students participated in the online course. For the onsite portion, 892 students from 227 community colleges in 39 states were selected, according to Alex Gladney-Lemon, education coordinator for NASA’s Office of STEM Engagement.

“A lot of them feel like they’re not as talented or as good as their fellow students at a four-year college and we want to show them that’s not true and that the doubt they have to be removed,” he said. “We try to do that by showing that many of our NASA employees have taken many strange and windy paths to get here.”

During their visit, students have the opportunity to network with NASA employees, learn about the various facilities, work on their resumes, and participate in a robotics design challenge. Upon completion of the program, many participants obtain internships through NASA and some are hired full-time.

The program is funded by the Minority Undergraduate Research and Education Project (MUREP).

Additionally, NASA has focused on recruiting students into the program from Minority Serving Institutions (MSI).

According to the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES), while more than a third of Black, Latino, and Native American students enter college with an interest in studying STEM, only 16% actually earn a bachelor’s degree in these areas.

Gladney-Lemon said the organization wants MSI students “to know there’s a place for them at NASA, too.”

NCAS has been around for nearly 15 years, beginning as a Texas-only event. Eventually it began to include the rest of the United States. Over the past three years, the program has expanded and now uses all 10 NASA centers.

By participating in this program, students gain confidence, Gladney-Lemon said.

“Those who come in get a big boost of confidence working with like-minded people, seeing all the different people we have at NASA, who are approachable, who are real, and who have the same stories as them,” he said. . “They struggled to get here, but they got here. Their confidence in themselves and in what they can accomplish increases astronomically.

Sarah Wood can be reached at swood@diverseeducation.com.

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