HCC Southwest student selected for exclusive NASA program

By Laura Taglialavore

Jan 7, 2015

NASA Student

Many young people dream of working at NASA someday and getting involved in Mars exploration. But Houston Community College Southwest student Chelsea Waters is already learning first-hand what it takes to design a Mars rover.

Waters, who is working toward an Associate’s degree in Science, was one of only 40 community college students chosen from hundreds nationwide to participate in the prestigious National Community College Aerospace Scholars project (NCAS) at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

The semester-long program is designed to help students learn more about what NASA does and how they can get involved in space exploration. The program closes with a three-day workshop at Johnson Space Center, in which students form teams and establish fictitious companies that bid for a NASA contract to design the next Mars 2020 rover.

“We were prompted to create a professional scientific mission proposal to Mars and create an accompanying 3D rover,” Waters said. “You learn so much and you get the opportunity to participate in tasks that real NASA employees engage in.”

The on-site experience at Johnson Space Center also included a tour of the facilities and briefings from NASA experts.

“NCAS is a unique opportunity because it allows students to network with other community college students from across the nation who have a passion for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math),” NCAS Program Coordinator Maria Chambers said. “Students also engage with NASA scientists and engineers and gain real-world experience of what it is like working at NASA.”

Waters hopes she will be able to re-enroll in the program in the future.

“I got to meet so many interesting individuals with like-minded goals and aspirations and work in a group-like setting,” Waters said. “This was really an awesome opportunity for anyone interested in aerospace science or engineering.”

After she finishes her Associate’s degree at HCC, Waters plans to transfer to a four-year college that offers Astronomy and Astrophysics programs.

“I would love the opportunity to work for NASA using my Astrophysics knowledge and have the opportunity to use other forms of science such as cognitive development and sociology to have an impact on a global scale,” said Waters.

For many students, NCAS has become pathway to future opportunities with NASA.

“Many of the students receive internships at NASA Centers after this program,” Chambers said.

NCAS is currently accepting applications for the Spring 2015. Any community college student interested in applying can learn more by visiting http://ncas.aerospacescholars.org/

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