Fourteen STEM Students from Passaic County Community College
Chosen for Prestigious NASA Conference
Posted March 30, 2017
Passaic County Community College launched a stellar success this month when 14 students from the PCCC STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) program were selected for an all-expense paid technical conference at a NASA facility this spring, where they will have the opportunity to learn about NASA projects, network with experts, and also compete for a paid summer internship with the space agency.
“I always dreamed of working for NASA,” said Michelle Diaz, a biology major. “Now that I have the NCAS opportunity, I feel that they will not overlook my application when the time comes.”
The NASA-bound students and five others from the College’s STEM program were among 500 community college students nationwide selected to participate in the 2017 NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars program (NCAS), designed to give community college STEM students an authentic NASA experience and encourage them toward college completion.
“PCCC is the only community college in New Jersey participating in NCAS this year,” said Dennis Reer, Director of the STEM Pathways Initiative at the College. “We encouraged our students to apply, and were amazed that 19 of them were selected,” he added.
In February, all 19 PCCC participants completed the first phase of the NCAS program, a five-week online workshop where they engaged in discussions and live video chats with NASA professionals, then produced an independent study project of their choice, selected from options provided by NASA.
Of the nationwide NCAS participants who successfully completed the online workshop, 350 were accepted for the conference. “We’re thrilled that 14 of our students were selected,” said Carlomagno Ontaneda, the STEM Pathways Coordinator at PCCC.
The PCCC students will attend the on-site conference at various NASA facilities. Eight will go to Ohio (April 10-13), five to Virginia (April 24-27) and one to Texas (May 1-4). “The conference is intense,” explained Mr. Ontaneda. “The four days go from 7:00 am to 9:00 pm, and students who participate will also be expected to present their work to a panel of judges and be interviewed.”
Following the interviews, a fortunate few from all nationwide participants will be chosen for a paid summer internship at one of three NASA locations: the Kennedy Space Center (Florida), Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center (Texas), and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (California.)
“This is an out-of-this world opportunity for students interested in STEM fields,” said Mr. Reer, who believes that programs such as NCAS are changing the misconceptions people have of community college education.
“Community colleges are the new frontier in higher education,” he says. “Why start at a university where you will spend so much more money, when you can have an educational experience like this at PCCC?”
Prospective students, especially high school seniors, can learn more about NCAS and other exciting opportunities at Discover STEM Day, April 7, 8:30 am – 2:00 pm on the Main Campus in Paterson.
What Our Students Say About NCAS and STEM @ PCCC
Read more about STEM @ PCCC
NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars Program (NCAS)