For six NASA
employees, the journey to their dream job began when they were just high school
students interested in High School Aerospace Scholar (HAS), an extracurricular NASA
program for high school Juniors in Texas that is, this year, celebrating its 20th year inspiring and educating youth. Now they volunteer as mentors for the
program where they got their start.
Sarmiento, it all started when she heard about HAS from one of her friends just
two days before the deadline while attending James E. Taylor High School in
Katy, Texas. After participating in HAS in 2001, Sarmiento went to college at the
University of Texas at Austin, majoring in neurobiology and minoring in
psychology. Now, she’s a flight project manager implementing the human research
experiments that are chosen to go on the International Space Station. Sarmiento
is also working on a master’s degree, majoring in psychology with a
concentration in behavioral neuroscience, at the University of Houston-Clear
Breeden, it all started when she was a Girl Scout while attending Plano Senior High
School in Plano, Texas, and read about HAS in the scout newsletter. After
participating in HAS in 2002, Breeden went to college at Texas A&M
University, majoring in aerospace engineering. She also participated in the
co-op program, which allows students to experience NASA careers through
internships. Now, she’s a safety operations engineer for NASA, where she plays
a critical role reviewing all procedures that the crew and the ground team use
for space station operations.
Walker, it all started when he heard about HAS from his high school physics
teacher while attending school at Canyon High School in New Braunfels, Texas.
After participating in HAS in 2007, Walker earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical
engineering from Texas A&M University and a doctorate in materials science
and engineering from the University of Houston, experiencing NASA careers
through internships. Walker is now at NASA full-time, working on thermal
testing and analysis of lithium ion batteries with a special focus on safety
and thermal runaway.
Bradley, it all started when her mom encouraged her to apply after finding a
flyer from her chemistry teacher while attending school at Angleton High School
in Angleton, Texas. After participating in HAS in 2005, Bradley went to the
University of Texas at Austin, majoring in mechanical engineering, and
experienced NASA careers through internships. Now she’s the subsystem manager
for the International Space Station windows and a structural window subject-matter
Schulte, it all started when he heard about HAS on the announcements at school
while attending Stephen F. Austin High School in Sugar Land, Texas. After
participating in HAS in 2007, Schulte studied aerospace engineering, earning
his bachelor’s at the University of Texas at Austin and his master’s and doctorate
at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He, too, experienced the space industry
through internships at NASA and with commercial partners. Now, Schulte is a Guidance,
Navigation and Control systems engineer for the Orion program, ensuring various
teams and software all work well together for the deep space vehicle.
Dillon, it all started when her dad told her about the HAS program because of
her interest in space while attending William P. Clements High School in Sugar
Land, Texas. After participating in HAS in 2010, Dillon went to the University
of Houston, majoring in aerospace engineering and minoring in mathematics, and
she experienced NASA careers through internships throughout college. Now she’s
a certified analyst and flight controller in training in the Environmental and
Thermal Operating Systems Group for the International Space Station Program, supporting
and women were able to start learning many of the necessary skills for their
future jobs at NASA—all while meeting some amazing people during HAS and making
memories of a lifetime.
“It is hard
to pick one,” Breeden said when asked about her favorite HAS experience. “The
tours were eye-opening, working with NASA employees was awesome and doing the
team competition was amazing.”
recall one specific experience that impacted her. She was able to watch the
broadcast of the return to flight launch during her HAS week after the loss of Columbia and her crew.
moment, seeing the emotion of all the employees in the room who had worked so
hard to get the shuttles back flying, I decided I wanted to be an engineer and
work for NASA,” Bradley said. “Prior to that moment, I was planning to get an
art degree, so to say HAS changed my life is almost an understatement.”
agrees that HAS was vital to her career planning as well. “This program helped
me solidify my decision to want to work for NASA one day, and now I am!”
today’s NASA programs are built on the lessons learned during the Apollo and
Shuttle eras, it’s important for future generations to stand on the shoulders
of those who came before them. Even to this day, these alums have not left HAS.
They now volunteer for HAS and other mentorship programs, giving back to the
kids they used to be. In fact, they recommend this experience every time they
get a chance. Whether you’re a student looking for a potential STEM career or a
NASA employee who wants to volunteer, HAS is for you.
said it’s an investment well worth your time and energy. “This program has the
opportunity to change the trajectory of a student’s life,” he said. “Your
passion needs to be shared with the next generation.”
points out it can also help you in your career. “This program is so rewarding,
because you get to inspire and be inspired by these amazing students,” Sarmiento
said. “I am continuously impressed with the caliber of students, and they
continue to help motivate and excite me about my job and the future of NASA.”
Walker urges you not to wait to get involved in HAS. “It’s worth it. Get out
there and help,” Walker said.
a one-of-a-kind experience for Texas high school students to explore the
possibilities of a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)-related
major or career. The adventure starts in the fall, with an online course that culminates—for
students who earn the opportunity—with an on-site summer experience at NASA's
Johnson Space Center.
If you or
someone you know is interested in HAS, you can learn more about the program at has.aerospacescholars.org.