NSA students selected for NASA program

Published 9:00 pm Saturday, February 15, 2014

Nansemond-Suffolk Academy juniors Kiraney Zhang, Matthew Allison and Maya Venkataraman, seated, as well as Madeline Robinson, standing to the right of educator Megan Edwards, were selected for the 2013-2014 Virginia Aerospace Science and Technology Scholars Program.

Nansemond-Suffolk Academy juniors Kiraney Zhang, Matthew Allison and Maya Venkataraman, seated, as well as Madeline Robinson, standing to the right of educator Megan Edwards, were selected for the 2013-2014 Virginia Aerospace Science and Technology Scholars Program.

Four Nansemond-Suffolk Academy juniors hope to expand their horizons in the aerospace sphere after being selected for the 2013-2014 Virginia Aerospace Science and Technology Scholars Program.

Matthew Allison, Maya Venkataraman, Kiraney Zhang and Madeline Robinson will immerse themselves in the world of NASA-related research, interacting with scientists, engineers and technologists during the online program.

They also have a chance of selection for a seven-day residential summer academy at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton.

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“I was hoping that maybe one day I could work for NASA, so I wanted to get an idea of what it was like to work as an engineer,” Allison said.

Zhang, a Chinese national in her third year at NSA, said she wanted to expand her general knowledge.

Venkataraman said her aim in applying for the program was to learn more about the nation’s space agency, while Robinson cited a motivation unique among the four:

“I actually joined it because I thought it might be helpful for creative writing, particularly in the sci-fi genre.”

She was hoping to “gain more knowledge about science and, essentially, space travel, to make sure the things I write about were physically possible, or not completely impossible.”

Allison said he was particularly hoping to be accepted for the summer academy, “because I think that will give me the best idea about what it’s like to work for NASA.”

For Venkataraman, she said she hopes to come away from the experience having been challenged and with a new perspective on “what it means to be an engineer.”

The non-academy part of the program would include lessons on difference aspects of aerospace engineering followed by quizzes, tests and technical reports, Allison said.

“You usually have to do a math problem related to — for instance — how a shuttle orbits,” Venkataraman said.

Upper-school math teacher Megan Edwards is the liaison between the students and the program. She said the four juniors would be “completely immersed” in the material.

“This is no cakewalk,” she said. “It’s a lot of work, and (it) gives them the opportunity to practice technical writing and work on real-life projects.”

Job opportunities in the engineering and technology field have remained “pretty constant” over the years, Edwards said.

“The engineer field is open and is a great place for a student with a strong math and science aptitude to get started.”