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PCC students have chance at earning Oregon NASA Space Grant Scholarships
Photos and Story by Karen Kane
Portland Community College students interested in STEM-related fields have an unprecedented opportunity this year. The Oregon Space Grant Consortium has increased the number of $5,000 NASA Space Grants it will award to PCC students from six last year to 27 this year. All students with interest in any science-related field are encouraged to apply.
To apply, visit the scholarship website.
“This is an exceptional opportunity for students, and one that is unlikely to be repeated in such large numbers,” said Catherine Lanier, associate director of the consortium. “In particular, we are encouraging women and students from underrepresented minorities to apply for these grants, and with so many available, the likelihood of being awarded one is good.”
The deadline for applying for this year’s scholarship program is May 22. To be eligible, PCC students need only to be enrolled for six credits for the 2015-2016 academic year, and have an interest in a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) field or in space science.
The Oregon Space Grant Consortium is a member of the National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program. The program is a national network of colleges and universities that work together to expand opportunities for Americans to understand and participate in NASA’s aeronautics and space projects. The fellowship supports and enhances science and engineering education, research and public outreach efforts.
Likewise, the Oregon Space Grant Consortium is a statewide network of universities, colleges, museums, educators, researchers, students and science professionals promoting STEM education through cooperative and interdisciplinary programs. PCC is among 18 member institutions of OSGC, and one of three community colleges. The other Oregon community colleges are Lane and Linn-Benton.
Lanier said the Consortium normally is able to award a dozen $5,000 grants to community colleges, and more to four-year schools. But because NASA is particularly interested in community college students, OSGC applied for and was awarded funding for 40 grants for the 2015-2016 academic year, 27 of which will go to PCC students.
“Any STEM student is eligible,” said Dieterich Steinmetz, Sylvania dean of science and engineering. “Last year’s winners are focusing on studies ranging from teaching to geophysics,” he said, “so the possibilities are numerous.”
Toby Dittrich, PCC physics instructor, emphasizes that the grants are not always awarded to the “typical” student. He tells the story of a PCC student who is also a mother of four in her late 30s who didn’t think she could possibly be chosen for a grant. But her “exquisite homework,” clear interest in science and commitment to STEM studies made her a perfect candidate. Dittrich, who is also the associate director of OSGP, told her to apply for a grant, and she indeed won.
“This is exactly the kind of student NASA is looking for,” Dittrich said. “They want to open access to all students who have an interest in science, math and technology at all levels of education.”
Dittrich reminds candidates to start the application process early, as references will need time to submit letters of support.
Campus NASA contacts:
Sylvania: Toby Dittrich – firstname.lastname@example.org
Cascade: Deborah Cochrane – email@example.com
Rock Creek: Andy Hilt – firstname.lastname@example.org
Southeast: Erik Puris – email@example.com
More Opportunities Abound
Another program of note is the NASA Aerospace Scholars Program, a five-week online course on Mars exploration. This program offers students two unique opportunities. One is an online course and the other is a possible visit to the Johnson Space Center.
To apply, visit the program’s website.
During the course, students will work with NASA scientists via live video chats while learning about past and current Mars missions, future missions and Mars geology. At course completion, students will create a Mars Mission Proposal with a 3D Rover model.
Additionally, students who successfully complete the online course are eligible to be chosen to attend a workshop at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. One student from each PCC campus will be chosen for the all-expense-paid trip.
Applications for the NASA Aerospace Scholars Program are due June 24 for the fall 2015 session. The program is open to any high school graduate or equivalent at least 18 years of age. Students must be registered at a U.S. community college in the semester prior to the onsite workshop, and have concurrent enrollment or completion of nine or more hours of STEM coursework.