Shooting for stars

Juniors ‘blast off’ to NASA program in Houston

Artificial+intelligence+%5C%5C+Making+some+repairs%2C+senior+Jaxson+Hill+helps+the+Robotics+Club+repair+its+robot+between+rounds+at+the+2017+tournament.+Hill%E2%80%99s+involvement+in+engineering+helped+him+get+selected+to+be+a+NASA+High+School+Aerospace+Scholar.%0A
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Shooting for stars

Artificial intelligence \\ Making some repairs, senior Jaxson Hill helps the Robotics Club repair its robot between rounds at the 2017 tournament. Hill’s involvement in engineering helped him get selected to be a NASA High School Aerospace Scholar.

Artificial intelligence \\ Making some repairs, senior Jaxson Hill helps the Robotics Club repair its robot between rounds at the 2017 tournament. Hill’s involvement in engineering helped him get selected to be a NASA High School Aerospace Scholar.

photo credit: Hunter Neirdello

Artificial intelligence \\ Making some repairs, senior Jaxson Hill helps the Robotics Club repair its robot between rounds at the 2017 tournament. Hill’s involvement in engineering helped him get selected to be a NASA High School Aerospace Scholar.

photo credit: Hunter Neirdello

photo credit: Hunter Neirdello

Artificial intelligence \\ Making some repairs, senior Jaxson Hill helps the Robotics Club repair its robot between rounds at the 2017 tournament. Hill’s involvement in engineering helped him get selected to be a NASA High School Aerospace Scholar.

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The final tweaks and touches were added, and they quickly prepared to watch their creation at work. Their eyes lit up as they watched their rocket leap for the stars. Well, not necessarily the stars, but up 200 feet into the sky. The rockets were built by juniors that attended the NASA High School Aerospace Scholars program.

The NASA High School Aerospace Scholars, or NASA HAS, is a program where 11th grade students across the state of Texas interested in STEM get an “out of this world” opportunity to learn about a variety of topics from space travel, to rocket making and to what it will take to get to Mars.

The competitive application process, that is only open to high school juniors, requires teacher and counselor recommendations, an essay and an endorsement from a local congressman. If accepted, the online portion consists of a four-month-long online course in mid-October to the end of April.

At NASA, we were placed into teams and assigned to research and plan various aspects of one massive manned mission to Mars. We launched rockets, competed in making rovers, competed in making landers, and toured various NASA facilities normally closed to the public.”

— Jaxson Hill, senior

“During the online course, I was assigned to read various articles about NASA technologies, getting to Mars, living in space, life on other planets, and the international space station just to name a few,” senior Jaxson Hill said, who was selected for the program last year.

Lead counselor Amy Andrews knew Hill even before she was his counselor, so when he needed a letter of recommendation, he knew exactly where to go get it.

When he came to me about this opportunity with NASA it was not a surprise that Jaxson would be a perfect candidate. It was extremely easy to write the letter of recommendation for Jaxson due to everything he has done on campus and in our community,” Mrs. Andrews said.

After the online portion ended in February, NASA chose the top 300 juniors to attend the summer onsite experience. About 50 students attended per week, and it was divided into about six weeks.

“At NASA, we were placed into teams and assigned to research and plan various aspects of one massive manned mission to Mars. We launched rockets, competed in making rovers, competed in making landers, and toured various NASA facilities normally closed to the public,” Hill said.

The program not only offers educational opportunities for anyone interested in any field of STEM, or just wanting to learn about NASA and its offerings, but offers the chance to make memories and friends.

During my time in the HAS program, I got to make so many friendships that will last a lifetime,” senior Braeden Fleeman said, who attends San Angelo Central High School in San Angelo, Texas. Fleeman also completed the courses and attended the onsite program. “In my hometown, there really aren’t that many people who are interested in stuff like NASA and other geeky/nerdy stuff that aren’t creeps. So getting to meet and hangout with a bunch of people who were not only interested in nerdy stuff, but were also really cool people, was amazing.”

The bonds that were made during the week left each student with smiles. In fact, the students who attended the summer program still have an active group chat that they frequently catch up on.

On the plane ride there, I sat down knowing nobody, but on the way back, we all sat in one spot laughing, talking and sharing our inside jokes from the week,” Hill said.

Transportation was one of the “memory makers” of the students. Every bus ride, car ride and the the plane rides each held memories with them.

Fleeman added “on the last night before we all left NASA, our bus was heading back to the hotel and for no reason we just started singing. It started with Wheels on the Bus and ended with Bohemian Rhapsody. And as we were all singing and laughing along due to sleep deprivation, I remember thinking to myself that I’m glad I did this and that I’m going to remember this for the rest of my life.”

 

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