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Essex County College’s collaboration with the NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars (NCAS) program continues this summer with a five-week online project. Students who successfully complete the online course, ending July 2, are invited to a four-day, on-campus engineering design and robotics competition.
Chemistry Professor Dr. Nidhal Marashi, the PI and Program Coordinator, said ECC is one of six lead institutions funded by NASA’s Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP). She said that 33 ECC students are participating in the online program. ECC Physics Professor Nadia Lvov co-coordinates the program.
The NASA awards are being distributed to 11 minority-serving community colleges across the nation with the goal of attracting and retaining more students in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) programs.
“The students work two to three hours a week on their projects, a NASA mission to the Moon, followed by another mission to Mars,” Dr. Marashi explained. “They are learning what is required to prepare for such missions,” she added.
Students who successfully complete the five-week online course are invited to a four-day, on-campus engineering design and robotics competition. The competition offers freshmen and sophomore students a hand-on, collaborative engineering experience early in their college careers and further connects students with NASA content and experts in the STEM field.
“Our continuing partnership with NASA is providing our students with wonderful opportunities for career growth,” said ECC President Dr. Anthony E. Munroe.
“This feels like a graduation project where all I have learned throughout my time at ECC will be beneficial and serve me well,” said Biology, Pre-Medicine major Diana Capera. “I am currently working on my independent final project related to the Mars mission. At the same time, I consider this program as a lifetime experience for what is yet to come for my STEM career.”
Diana will be transferring to Rutgers University aiming for a Neuroscience degree “and the ability to conduct clinical research and testing. My hopes are to one day be part of the NASA Research team.”
Chukwuemerie Igbokwe admits he attended the NCAS seminar for extra credit, “but then I got really interested. I want to learn more. I grab every opportunity possible.” The Biology, Pre-Medicine major said, “The Nasa program is challenging. There’s a lot to read, watch and write.”
Chukwuemerie said the final project is very intense, leading him to start preparing shortly after the online classes started May 27. He plans to transfer to Rutgers University where he will major in Health Sciences.
Mechanical Engineering major Nicholas Stremel said, “The program provides a very in-depth look into the different projects and missions at NASA and instills a sense of inspiration and motivation to get involved in space exploration. The work is vigorous and is capable of not only challenging its participants with an in-depth final project, but it also inspires students with interesting articles and videos.” He plans to transfer to NJIT after graduation from ECC.
Last October, ECC held a week long NASA on Campus event with 22 students. The week concluded with four teams successfully deploying EV3 LEGO rover models on a simulated Martian surface in the College’ s 4th Floor MPR.
The students also learned about the wide spectrum of career options from representatives of NASA and guest speakers from area universities. Alicia Baturoni Cortez, Education Program Manager for NASA STEM Engagement, worked with the students.