HCC and NASA team up to inspire students

Nov 18, 2016

Houston Community College (HCC) student Hernando Hernandez never thought that one day he would walk the halls of Johnson Space Center (JSC) with ease. He never suspected that his educational journey would give him special access to the place where the astronauts train and where space missions are controlled.

“I wont forget the experience,” said Hernandez. “I wish more students applied for the program, not just engineers but all students in STEM fields.”

Hernandez was one of 14 HCC students who recently completed the Engineering Design Challenge as part of the NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars Program. In pursuit of a career in electrical engineering, Hernandez expects to graduate next spring and transfer to the HCC-University of Texas at Tyler Engineering program.

“We put together the program to try to inspire the students,” said Alex Gladney-Lemon, Johnson Space Center Education Coordinator. “The students listen to current NASA scientists and engineers and learn from people who were in their spot just a few years ago.”

This collaborative experience, according to Hernandez, was life changing.

“The best part was that we got to connect with people. When you are an engineer you feel that you are going to work independently but you must work together to accomplish your task,” he said.

The program, which consists of five-weeks of online instruction, culminates with four days at the JSC facilities. The final goal is to design and create a new model of the Mars Rover.

Year after year, this program gives students the chance to apply the knowledge they acquired in the classroom. Most importantly, for JSC officials, it confirms the discipline that characterizes community college students.

“We want community college students,” said Gladney-Lemon. “We value the fact that the community college student is the ultimate multitasker. The community college student is not just taking classes. He or she sometimes has work and kids. These students are focused and they do well.”

With this program, NASA continues the agency’s tradition of investing in the nation’s educational programs by attracting and retaining college students in STEM disciplines critical to future missions, which include Mars and beyond.

The NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars Program is conducted every spring and fall semester at several NASA sites from around the nation. To learn more about eligibility and application deadlines visit nas.okstate.edu/ncas/.

To learn more about engineering programs at HCC visit hccs.edu/engineering.

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