A good opportunity at PDCCC

Published 9:20 pm Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Students at Paul D. Camp Community College are among those who could benefit from an agreement between Virginia’s Community Colleges and the Virginia Space Grant Consortium.

The agreement, which was inked recently between the two agencies, will provide opportunities for 23 students a year to take part in a rigorous research experience at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton or NASA Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.

Dr. Van Wilson, assistant vice chancellor for academic and student services for Virginia’s Community Colleges, describes the program as competitive and hands-on.

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“NASA provides some of the best and brightest of their scientists to work side-by-side with these students,” he said. “In addition to the technological component, the students also learn the importance of so-called ‘soft skills,’ like teamwork and communication.”

Participating students will be involved in the same kind of problem-solving challenges NASA engineers face every day.

“Some of the things that these students are doing — it really is rocket science,” Wilson said. “It is a level of engagement in STEM that other students just don’t have the opportunity to do.”

STEM subjects are widely considered the means by which America will re-emerge as the world’s leading technological power, the way it will protect itself in the future and the nation’s best hope for solving some of its most intractable social problems.

The opportunity to work beside NASA engineers should be a fine enticement for those who intend to pursue careers in technology and engineering, and it’s good news that students in Virginia’s community colleges will have a chance to take pursue that opportunity.