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DCCCD NASA Students Tackle ‘Real Time’ Space Projects

photo of students and staff at Johnson Space Center

Ann Hatch

For immediate release — June 1, 2012

Editors’ note: A complete list of DCCCD students who attended NASA CAS this year is provided at the end of this story; students’  names are listed by hometown.

(DALLAS) – No more Red Planet disasters. No lost space probes. No failures.

That was the mission given to 20 Dallas County Community College District students who were asked to design a Mars rover that could maneuver the Red Planet’s terrain during their three-day visit to the Johnson Space Center in Houston. The project was part of DCCCD’s special partnership in the NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars Program.

DCCCD, in partnership with the NASA CAS program, historically has brought the largest number of students from its seven colleges to NASA through assignments that involved both interactive, Web-based learning activities plus an on-site experience at the Johnson Space Center. The DCCCD scholars participated in the team project – designing the Mars rover – and were directed by NASA engineers. They also toured the facilities.

DCCCD’s partnership with NASA is designed to encourage students to consider or continue a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) career path. “Our participation in NASA CAS encourages DCCCD students to take a leadership role in their educational environment,” says Esther Canales, who coordinated the NASA CAS program for DCCCD this year. “In the past, the NASA CAS program was open to community college students throughout Texas. For the second consecutive year, based on DCCCD’s participation, we had an exclusive agreement with NASA CAS for our students.”

DCCCD has participated in the NASA CAS program for 10 years (including the spring 2012 class), sending more than 145 students to become aerospace scholars. This year, 20 of the 109 applicants from the district’s colleges were selected to participate, based on a specific set of criteria.

Before the students left for the Johnson Space Center, they already had Mars on their minds. Their first NASA assignment instructed them to research and design a Mars rover that could successfully handle the planet’s terrain. With plans in hand, the group formed four teams when they arrived in Houston and were assigned roles that would enable each team to complete the phases of the mock Mars rover development. They followed the specifications they received in a NASA request for proposal and then built the robotic rover.

From Mission Control to Mars, students from all seven DCCCD colleges were excited to participate and awed by the opportunity to attend a real astronaut debriefing and meet the crew members personally.

“My trip to NASA was well beyond anything I dreamed of! It was one of the most challenging things I have ever done! However, I felt out of the whole experience, the greatest thing about it was meeting some truly phenomenal people,” said Brianna Buchanan, who attends Eastfield College and lives in Princeton. “I have never been in such a large group of like-minded, extremely hardworking individuals, whether it was with my fellow Aerospace scholars, seeing them work together with great passion, or meeting different people from NASA through the various tours and speakers who gave presentations. To be working alongside so many unique, smart and driven individuals was amazing, and (it was) an opportunity that I will forever cherish and be proud of."

DCCCD outreach staff members already are making plans for spring 2013 so that another group of the district’s students will have the same opportunity to grow and learn through the NASA CAS program. “With the help of several faculty and staff members at several colleges – and with NASA’s support – our 2012 aerospace scholars from DCCCD learned so much from their projects and interaction with NASA personnel,” says Canales. “We’re ready to launch again!”

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Dallas County Community College District
NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars Program
DCCCD student hometowns list –  June 2012

Ashley Berens, El Centro College

Aleida Castillo, El Centro College; Christian Gudino, Brookhaven College; Regina Obara, Richland College; Christopher Ochoa, Mountain View College; Lilyana Quigley, Richland College; Olivia Romero, Richland College; Eduardo Segovia, Richland College; Ivan Ugues, Eastfield College

Daniel Stewart, Richland College

Donald Bell, Richland College; and Beverly Padilla, Richland College

Grand Prairie
Jesse Gonzalez, Mountain View College

Julie Pitman, Cedar Valley College

Marissa Cogburn, Eastfield College; Jared Freeland, Eastfield College; Shannon Hanson, Eastfield College; and Alexandra Twiss, Eastfield College

Brianna Buchanan, Eastfield College

Jonathan Nguyen, Richland College

Anie Heynis Reid, Mountain View College

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