According to Mission High School (MHS) seniors Flor Benavides and Jasmine Garza, the Texas High School Aerospace Scholars program sponsored by NASA was a lot of hard work, but well worth the effort. They were encouraged to apply for the program by their then physics teacher, Eric Gutierrez. The program offers students a one-of-a-kind experience to help them explore the possibilities of a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) related major or career. Students participate in online space exploration studies; participate in an online community including chat sessions with subject matter and NASA engineers/scientists, and research about leading STEM professionals. The program concludes with a six-day residential summer experience at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.
Benavides and Garza said they were nervous about attending the summer session in Houston, but quickly discovered a competitive, but very supportive atmosphere they found challenging and very rewarding. Both Benavides and Garza indicated the program did not sway them to pursue a STEM related career, but felt it changed their lives through what they experienced in the summer session and the motivation and inspiration of the program mentors.
At the summer program, students from across Texas are split into several different project teams. In addition to presentations, tours, and lessons, each team was responsible for developing part of an overall plan for a mission to Mars. This involved everything from brainstorming ideas, to budgeting, to engineering, to model building. Each of the 6 days of the program was long, averaging 12 hours.
In addition to the lessons learned in the summer program, and the studies during the school year, both Benavides and Garza were able to earn a Science credit toward their graduation requirements.
Applications from high school juniors for the Texas High School Aerospace Scholars program will be accepted until November 15. Applications and information about the program are available online at, http://has.aerospacescholars.org.
Pictured are Flor Benavides (left) and Jasmine Garza (right) in their summer program team shirts, showing their NASA ID badges that were required to be worn throughout the six-day summer program.