By Jacob Adams, Staff Writer

Community College Aerospace Scholars (NCAS), a NASA program, gives community college students an opportunity to participate in a three day engineering workshop held on NASA grounds after completing a five-week online course.

PPCC student, Danielle Weldon, successfully completed the online course and was selected to participate in a workshop at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

“Five or six people from PPCC were accepted into this program,” Weldon said, “I might be the only one who went to Kennedy.”

Weldon found out about this program through one of her professors, Carol Jonas-Morrison.

“She wanted as many people as possible to apply and would personally recommend any who decided to go,” Weldon said.

The NCAS program is competitive according to Weldon. “You’re evaluated on a final project we had to complete. How they evaluated I’m not really sure,” she said, “but I felt like they wanted to accept as many people as possible to the workshop.”

The 2018 NCAS focused on Mars.

Weldon said, “We had two separate Mars competitions. Our missions were to gather rocks and identify minerals and rescue rovers.”

Weldon explained that the group she was in was structured like a corporation, and that “the point of the competition was more about getting your feet wet rather than winning. They wanted to see how you performed under pressure.”

The workshop itself was intense, Weldon said, because students had to work on their projects and tour the NASA facilities at the same time.

“We did not sleep. We stayed at a hotel on the beach that had a pool. I went to the beach and hotel pool zero times. It was busy. Very busy. We needed to eat and be on the bus at 7:15 a.m. and usually we wouldn’t come back until  6 or 7 p.m. and then [we] worked until midnight. Then we woke up and did it all again,” Weldon said.

Weldon’s experience at Kennedy Space Center proved to her that NASA seemed to value work experience over degrees.

“After this I’m going to look harder for internships even if they don’t apply to my desired field,” said Weldon. “It didn’t seem like any of the NASA employees got their degree in four years. It made me feel a little better about trying to find my way. Seeing people working and doing their jobs, seeing that helps.”

Weldon is working on her AS (Associate of Science) degree, with a degree-track focus in Biology and Mathematics.