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Essex County College is on the ground floor of one of NASA’s newest education initiatives – the National Community College Aerospace Scholars (NCAS) program.
The program is geared toward community college students interested in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) majors, and Essex is the only two-year college in New Jersey and one of only seven nationwide to participate in the initial phase.
As part of the program, students will participate in a five-week online workshop, consisting of discussions, live video chats with NASA experts and various mission design challenges. Students will then apply for the opportunity to spend four days at a NASA center, getting an inside look at missions and science, networking with the administration’s scientists and engineers, and developing a presentation to showcase their work to a panel of judges.
This past October, Dr. Eunice Kamunge, chair of the College’s Division of Biology, Chemistry & Physics, and Chemistry Associate Professor Dr. Nidhal Marashi spent a week at NASA’s Ames Research Center in San Jose, California, learning about the program.
Currently, Dr. Marashi and Physics Associate Professor Nadia Lvov are teaching a NASA on-line course to a small group of students from around the country. “This is to provide us with hands-on training; the next step will be working with our Essex students,” said Dr. Marashi. She said she expects about 30 or so ECC students to take part once the program begins at Essex.
Both professors will also be visiting another NASA facility soon for additional training.
“I am glad that our students will have the opportunity to participate in these NASA activities. It is truly an exposure that will open up new horizons during their pursuit of education here at ECC. This is another example of how we are committed to our students’ success,” said Dr. Kamunge.
“The overall program will be a true benefit to our students,” said Professor Lvov.
Ultimately, the added incentive for students will be the available $7,000 undergraduate NASA internships, said Dr. Marashi.
This opportunity first came along when the College became a partner on the New Jersey Space Grant Consortium, based at Rutgers University. Dr. Marashi explained that this is a four year grant which provides such services as peer tutors and independent research opportunities.
“This is really an exciting time for our College and especially our students,” said Dr. Marashi. “They will have the opportunity to work with some of the top scientists at NASA, better preparing them for when they transfer to a four-year college and then when they go on to their careers.”