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For part of the summer, 36 Essex County College students are taking an online class as part of ECC’s participating in the NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars (NCAS) program. Essex is one of only six community colleges nation-wide participating in the pilot program.
Dr. Nidhal Marashi, ECC Chemistry professor, said the online course runs for five weeks, until July 3. Students who pass the course with 70 percent or higher are eligible for the fall (October 15-19) on-site field experience portion at ECC.
That portion of the program is an engineering design and robotics competition designed by NASA. After successfully completing the program, one student from each campus will be awarded a NASA summer internship.
Dr. Marashi and Physics Professor Nadia Lvov are serving as instructor assistant mentors for the ECC students. Both faculty members have received extensive training, including a week at NASA’s Stennis Research Center in Stennis, Mississippi.
NCAS gives community college students who are focusing on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) fields an authentic NASA experience at one of its centers. NCAS encourages the students to finish a two-year degree and then transfer to a four-year university to pursue a NASA-related field or career. Since 2007, nearly 200 internships have been awarded to NCAS alumni over the years with many going on to full-time careers in the aerospace industry.
“This is really an exciting time for our College and especially our students,” said Dr. Marashi. “The pilot project is a wonderful opportunity for them to work with some of NASA’s top scientists, better prepare them for when they transfer to a four-year college and then when they go on to their careers.”
During this summer phase of the project, the students have both quizzes and a final project. The combined scores on the quizzes (60 percent) and the project (40 percent) will determine the eligibility for the onsite NCAS –ECC field experience. The project is related to the NASA Mission to Mars program.