For Blinn College District student Luis Garduno, acceptance into an elite NASA summer program started with a simple social media search.
Looking to get his foot in the door of his dream career, the Waxahachie native came upon a call for applications for the NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars (NCAS) Program on the space agency’s Twitter page. A Blinn mathematics major, Garduno applied and was accepted to participate in a five-week online training program designed to challenge his knowledge of computer science and engineering.
“I followed NASA on Twitter, and noticed they always post interactive opportunities such as internships and exclusive events,” Garduno said. “I felt this would be a great opportunity to network with top experts in the STEM field, and to interact with other community college students across the country.”
The online training required an 80 percent success rate for applicants to advance to the onsite experience at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. Garduno aced the training, which included the design of a three-dimensional space rover using design software taught in various Blinn engineering courses.
“In Fall 2017, I took an engineering graphics class at Blinn that taught me to use AutoCAD and Inventor very well,”Garduno said. “I received 99 of the 100 total points for the final project confirming my acceptance into the onsite program. I credit my success to the extensive knowledge I gained from that course.”
In July, Garduno will join 39 other community college students at Stennis Space Center, where they will establish fictional companies interested in Mars exploration. Students will be guided by NASA engineers as they develop and test a prototype rover, form a company infrastructure, manage a budget, and develop communications and outreach.
The onsite experience includes briefings by NASA subject matter experts, a tour of the facilities, and information on how to apply for internships.
“NCAS not only inspires community college students to advance in STEM fields, but it also opens doors for future careers at NASA,” said Joeletta Patrick, Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP) Manager. “NCAS has a legacy of alumni moving from NASA internships to the NASA workforce. It is rewarding to see the progression of a student from NCAS participant to NASA colleague.”
Garduno is on track to transfer to Southern Methodist University (SMU) this fall, where he will major in computer science with a specialization in cybersecurity and minor in mathematics.
“My career goal is to work for NASA, so participating in this experience is a huge step for me,” he said. “I am getting an inside look at how NASA conducts operations and what they have in store for the future. This is motivating me to continue to better myself so that one day I can join the agency.”
Registration is now open for Blinn’s Summer and Fall semesters. The Summer II semester runs July 5-Aug. 2, and the Fall semester begins Aug. 27. Registration for each semester is available until the first day of class.
For enrollment information and to learn about financial aid opportunities, visit: www.blinn.edu.