Elgin Community College student Angela M. Andrada returned to the NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars program (NCAS) as a student assistant during the program’s onsite training at NASA’s Langley Research Center (LaRC) outside of Washington D.C. The program was held for four days during June, where Andrada led various activities, guided the next team of aerospace scholars in their rover competition and handled program logistics.
Andrada, of Elgin, was one of 304 community college students nationwide to participate in the program last September, and was selected as one of two program alumni to return in an assistant role after being nominated by a LaRC staff member.
“I've always been driven to make a positive impact on the world through scientific knowledge,” said Andrada. “NASA LaRC staff assured us that there is a place for us [community college students] at NASA and encouraged us to continue our studies for the ultimate benefit of humankind.
This experience is the best launching pad from which I can further inspire younger generations of science-lovers to reach for heights that may seem farther away than stars.”
The NCAS program is comprised of five-weeks of online activity leading up to a four-day program at a NASA center, offering students the opportunity to interact with NASA engineers and other subject matter experts as they learn more about careers in science and engineering. While at NASA, students form teams and establish fictional companies interested in Mars exploration. Each team is responsible for developing and testing a prototype rover, forming a company infrastructure, managing a budget, and developing communications and outreach.
During the 2017-2018 year, Andrada, with the help of ECC’s Rho Kappa Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society advisors and members, led a year-long initiative that challenged the gender and racial disparities in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) by empowering younger generations at local and low-income school districts to consider careers in STEM, and to believe they can achieve their out-of-this-world goals, regardless of their circumstances.
Andrada, who plans on pursuing a PhD in a science-related field, hopes to land a NASA internship with one of her mentors in the near future, and will remain a strong advocate for closing the gender and racial gap in STEM.
NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars is a project funded in part by the Minority University Research and Education Program (MUREP), which is committed to engaging underrepresented and underserved STEM students 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 MUREP Manager Joeletta Patrick. “NCAS has a legacy of alumni moving from NASA internships to ultimately entering the NASA workforce. It is rewarding to see the progression of a student from NCAS participant to NASA colleague.”