To Aerospace and Beyond

Audrey Vieira, Staff writer

NASA’s Aerospace Scholars program gives Texas high school juniors the opportunity to study space from their laptops. The program, which involves various types of science including physics, chemistry and biology, allows students to explore a STEM career pathway before leaving high school.

Students accepted into the program can participate in interactive online modules on aeronautics, earth science, 3D drawing and video creation.

“[The purpose of the program is] to allow students an exciting, interactive aerospace experience which will allow students to the opportunity to better understand this career field and to better understand if they believe this career field would be a good fit for them,” said College and Career Center Coordinator Kristy Dozier.

Students from across Texas can apply for the program. Junior James Hubbard applied to be a part of Aerospace Scholars in October because of his interest in astrophysics. He received his acceptance the same month.

“I just filled out some papers and got a bunch of letters, got some recommendations from counselors and teachers,” Hubbard said. “[When I found out I was accepted] I was like ‘Hey, that’s cool, I get to do all this cool stuff now.’ But all of the work is ahead of me and not behind me, so I couldn’t necessarily be like ‘I’ve accomplished so much’ when I have a lot to accomplish.”

Since his acceptance into the program, Hubbard has been focused on his online courses with the program, which will continue until February.

“It’s just to get a better understanding of the fields that you want to go into,” Hubbard said. “It could eventually lead to visiting a NASA site, and it helps you get a better grip on what you want to do in the future.”

Being a part of Aerospace Scholars gives Hubbard a chance to communicate with NASA engineers and scientists through virtual chats. A conversation with NASA could lead to a once in a lifetime opportunity as select Aerospace Scholars are invited to a weeklong all-expenses-paid trip to the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

The students, who will be selected in March 2017, will participate in team projects, briefings directed by NASA scientists and engineering activities during the experience.

“[We are] not given information on who is accepted to the program or who is invited to attend the summer experience,” Dozier said. “However, our students are encouraged to let us know of their acceptance to this program along with other programs. AHS is excited to hear about our students’ accomplishments and experiences.”

Students invited to the Johnson Space Center are also given a chance to put their science and engineering skills to the test by planning a possible mission to Mars.

“They’ve already done a couple of things in relation to [a Mars mission], but most of them are one-way,” Hubbard said. “Personally, I don’t think Mars is that appealing of a planet to settle. It would be cool, but in theory it’s not that far away from Earth if we’re trying to go for longevity. It is still a stepping stone, though.”

Experiences in Aerospace Scholars allow juniors to receive a taste of what a career in NASA or a STEM field would be like through the Internet and give them an idea of what they may want to major in during their college years.

“Experiences such as these allow students to broaden their experience base and understanding of what they ultimately want to do with life after high school,” Dozier said. “All students are encouraged to seek experiences that allow them to grow academically and personally.”