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NASA Welcomes NCAS Students for Four-Day Workshop

March 27, 2019

From March 11 to 14, NASA’s Office of STEM Engagement welcomed students from the National Community College Aerospace Scholar (NCAS) program to Johnson Space Center.

Following successful completion of the rigorous five-week online portion of NCAS, selected students representing schools from across the country were invited to a four-day on-site workshop at Johnson. Once on-site, students enjoyed tours and attended lectures, including one from the internship team encouraging students to apply. In addition, students were split into teams to put the skills they learned to the test by designing a Mars rover and competing to retrieve objects on a simulated terrain.

 “My team comes from different walks of life—some of us are older, some are younger, some are talented in different areas,” said Bedan Ngugi, a sophomore at Wharton Community College. “We all bring different talents to the table, and we use our talents to help our team succeed. It creates an atmosphere where everyone is included.”

Teams were responsible for managing their company’s budget with fiscal responsibility, and they were required to align with NASA’s goals for Mars exploration with NASA work culture and expectations.

“I’ve read books about NASA, because books give you that opportunity to travel the world within the confines of your own mind,” Ngugi said. “Coming here and actually seeing people who work at NASA brings everything full circle for me and reaffirms that NASA is the leading frontier in the next generation of human intelligence.”

Each team worked with a NASA mentor, who served as their designated CEO, to determine who would fill each role below based on knowledge, skills and interests. Among the various assigned positions was a project manager, chief systems engineer, design research engineer, operations engineer, assembly engineer, software engineer, test engineer, project manager and financial officer, and a marketing and communications manager.

“Being able to be in the middle of programming and design, where I wouldn’t normally be, has been such a good balance for me,” said Monica Campos, a freshman at Pasadena Community College. “This experience has given me the confidence I needed to continue my studies in becoming a mechanical engineer.”

Students were also responsible for organizing, marketing and promoting their team’s company and its capabilities to NASA in a final presentation.

“This is the only team in my 21 years that I would be happy to lose with, and that’s a testament to how well we all meshed together,” Ngugi said. “Seeing the sacrifice each team member demonstrated is something that makes you appreciate what NASA does, and what we can do when we come together to work and accomplish a goal.”

NCAS students gather around to watch their rover in action during the competition. Image Credit: NASA/James Blair

The four-day workshop brought real NASA missions to life for the community college students participating. Image Credit: NASA/James Blair
The four-day workshop brought real NASA missions to life for the community college students participating. Image Credit: NASA/James Blair