College Students Selected to Build Rovers For Fictional Mars Mission

Artist's concept of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover, currently en route to the red planet to investigate Mars' past or present ability to sustain microbial life.  Students from community colleges in 24 states will be participating to design, build, and carry out missions with their own rovers in early May at NASA center in CA and TX.  Image Credit: NASA

Artist's concept of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover, currently en route to the red planet to investigate Mars' past or present ability to sustain microbial life. Students from community colleges in 24 states will be participating to design, build, and carry out fictional missions with their own rovers in early May at NASA centers in CA and TX. Image Credit: NASA

NASA today announced the selection of ninety-two community college students from institutions in 24 states to travel to NASA’s Johnson Space Center or NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to participate as teams in a program where they will design robotic rovers conducting an imaginary mission on the surface of Mars.

The National Community College Aerospace Scholars program, or NCAS, is designed to encourage community and junior college students to enter careers in science and engineering through hands-on opportunities with agency professionals at NASA centers with NASA engineers – inspiring interest in STEM disciplines and motivating students to join the nation’s high technology workforce after they graduate college.

Students selected to participate were chosen through a highly competitive process where they completed interactive web-based assignments over the course of the school year.

Students selected to participate at Johnson Space Center will do so from May 9-11, students visiting JPL will participate from May 1-3.

“Community colleges are an important part of the academic landscape, and NASA is proud to be working with these students to continue their interest and skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “This innovative project gets students engaged in actual engineering design and production — from concept to build-out — that simulates the processes NASA uses in designing robotic explorers for solar system destinations. By letting them experience first-hand the challenges and excitement inherent in space exploration, we may be cultivating NASA’s workforce of tomorrow.”

The selected students will form into teams and establish a Mars exploration ‘company’, whose goal is to explore the surface of Mars.  The teams will then develop, design, and build a prototype rover, navigate a course with their rover, and collect rocks and water before returning to ‘home base’.  Students will also tour whatever NASA facility they are at (JPL or JSC) and attend presentations by astronauts and industry professionals about their careers.

“I am so proud of the Community College Aerospace Scholars program,” said Leland Melvin, NASA’s associate administrator for education. “Community colleges offer NASA a great pool of STEM talent critical to our scientific and exploration initiatives. They also serve a large portion of our nation’s minority students. Engaging these underserved and underrepresented learners in STEM initiatives helps NASA build a more inclusive and diverse workforce for the future.”

For a complete list of students and the colleges they represent, visit:

http://go.nasa.gov/nccas

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