Four NASA studentsFour Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College students to participate in the NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars (NCAS) program. All four students are from the Harrison County Campus.

Christian “Luke” Colson, a computer engineering major; and Antoine Nguyen, Alan Cortes, and Juan Rivera, all computer science majors, just received notification that they have been accepted to participate in the NCAS program, which is a kind of proto-internship for NASA and can culminate in a multi-day onsite with engineers and astronauts on a current, live NASA project.

It is only open to community college students and is advertised by the program’s prior participants as well as NASA’s engineers and astronauts, such as Victor Glover, who took time out of his schedule aboard the International Space Station to talk about it here:

MGCCC has long been a partner to NASA, especially Stennis Space Center and the NCAS program, by sending students to participate in internships and activities. The college’s engineering and computer science preparation remains strong, and students have continued to be selected for these programs, internships, and jobs for more than a decade.

Antoine Nguyen made it known that he wanted to participate in the NCAS program as far back as January of 2023. “I had a goal to work at NASA since fifth grade,” said Nguyen. “Now that it is here, I am actually awestruck.”

Nguyen and began taking steps to strengthen his engineering approach to programming right away in CSC-2144. His C++ instructor, Allison Mull, said, “Not only was he taking hard skills to heart, but he was emphasizing the soft skills that also matter such as starting work early to anticipate potential setbacks, troubleshooting on his own, and adopting a growth mindset.”

Nguyen said that the importance of troubleshooting one’s own software cannot be understated. “It has helped me find out how to solve problems on my own and become more independent,” he said.

Cortes said he was surprised to be selected.

“I woke up on July 11 and looked at my college email first thing and saw the message from NASA,” he said. “I began to read it and it said, ‘Thank you for applying,’ and my heart sank.”

Thinking it was a big brush-off, he was surprised when reading further down that he had been accepted.

“I went from being sleepy to being awake,” he said. “It was amazing. I said, ‘Hey, Mom, I made it to NASA!’ She was very happy for me.”

Originally from Oaxaca, Mexico, he never dreamed he would be spending several weeks working with NASA.

“I am the first generation of college students in my family,” he said. “We have only been in the U.S. for a few years. This is an unbelievable dream come true for me.”

He credits MGCCC’s Dr. Margaret West with his approach to the engineering process.  “She taught me problem solving and thinking harder and more independently,” he said. “Without her, I don’t think I would have done as well as I have.”

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