Headed for the Stars: STEM Students are NASA Aerospace Scholars

STEM scholar Pi Raymond Oliver spent part of this month at NASA’s Stenis Space Center in Mississippi, where he completed the space agency’s NCAS Program. Oliver was at Stenis October 1-5 as one of 319 community college students from across the United States.

NCAS — NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars — incorporates a five-week online activity that culminates with a four-day on-site event at a NASA center. The program offers students the opportunity to interact with NASA engineers and others as they learn more about careers in science and engineering.

While at NASA’s Stenis Center, Oliver and the other students formed teams and established fictional companies interested in Mars exploration. Each team was responsible for developing and testing a prototype rover, forming a company infrastructure, managing a budget, and developing communications and outreach. The on-site experience at NASA included briefings by NASA subject-matter experts, information on how to apply for internships, and a tour of NASA’s unique facilities.

“[T]his is the most amazing opportunity I have ever embarked on. Hands down,” Oliver wrote in an email sent from Stenis on his first day there. “I am networking with the staff here already — and I am sure that I can promote this opportunity towards other Cypress students.”

Oliver participated as part of his enrollment in Cypress College’s (STEM)2 Program.

At an on-campus (STEM)2 presentation this month, student Dustin Nguyen spoke to 85 classmates about the program. Nguyen has completed two consecutive internships at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

Three other current students also completed the program in recent semesters: Asma Karakra, Grace Lewis, and Michael Quezada.

The NASA program is partially funded by the Minority University Research and Education Program, or MUREP, which is committed to engaging underrepresented and underserved students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in authentic learning experiences to sustain a diverse workforce.

“NCAS not only inspires community college students to advance in STEM fields, but it also opens doors for future careers at NASA,” said Joeletta Patrick, Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP) Manager. “NCAS has a legacy of alumni moving from NASA internships to and ultimately entering the NASA workforce.”

More information is available from (STEM)2 Program Director Yanet Garcia at yagarcia@cypresscollege.edu. Interested students can also visit ncas.aerospacescholars.org/ and nasa.gov/education/murep.