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Seven PCC students earn NASA honors

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Seven Portland Community College students have been rewarded with recognition by the space agency NASA for hard work in their studies.

Four students were named National Community College Aerospace Scholars (NCAS) – Sheng Chen (Beaverton), Justin Martinez (Beaverton), Joseph Thiebes (Southeast Portland) and Danny Nguyen (Northwest Portland). The scholars, part of a group of 92 students from 24 states, will take part in interactive web-based activities before visiting the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., May 1-3 for a hands-on engineering project.

The project gives community college students a chance to design robotic rovers in cooperation with NASA. The teams will establish fictional companies pursuing Mars exploration. Each team will develop, design and build a prototype rover, then use their prototypes to navigate a course, collect rocks and water and return to a home base. The on-site experience this spring includes a tour of NASA facilities and briefings from agency scientists and engineers.

NASA chooses students from across the nation through a competitive process. Selected students are pursuing their initial undergraduate degree at a community college who have an interest for mathematics, science, engineering or computer science.

Robert Konell.

In addition, Martinez, Samantha Mellin (Aloha), Andrew Hill (North Portland) and Robert Konell (North Portland) were awarded the Oregon NASA Space Grant Consortium Scholarship. The program recognizes the academic accomplishments of students enrolled at Oregon NASA Space Grant Consortium member institutions. Each student has indicated a future career in the aerospace, science, or education community, working towards STEM focused career goals, and has attained the highest levels of academic achievement.

Konell is a good example of what the space grants can do for a student who is selected. The computer science and math major based at the Cascade Campus plans to transfer to Portland State University, where he will pursue either a bachelor’s degree in computer science with a math minor, or a dual major in both.

“It’s amazing,” said Konell of the grant. “I’m a low-income student, and so financially it’s a huge gift, especially with the ever increasing cost of tuition. Aside from that, I’ve worked extremely hard since I started back to school with PCC, and it feels good to have someone single you out for all of your effort. It certainly magnifies my motivation to try hard in everything I do.

“NASA represents the determination in the human spirit,” he added. “It’s absolutely amazing what we can do when we have a goal in mind. Space exploration itself is an obstacle that involves more than one hurdle to overcome. I think that is the magic of space exploration – it isn’t so much in getting there, but the journey we have to take.”

The Oregon Space Grant Consortium, a part of the National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program, is a statewide network of universities, colleges, museums, educators, researchers, students and science professionals. They are entrusted to promote STEM education through cooperative and interdisciplinary programs while recruiting and training NASA’s next diverse workforce.


About James Hill

James G. Hill, an award-winning journalist and public relations writer, has been the Communications Specialist for the Office of Public Affairs at Portland Community College since November of 1999. A graduate of Portland State University, J... more »


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