High School Aerospace Scholars celebrates 10 years

Though NASA has many successful educational and internship programs, there is one celebrating its 10-year anniversary this summer.

High School Aerospace Scholars (HAS) started in 1999, created through a partnership with the State of Texas and Johnson Space Center. Both entities felt the students of Texas needed more motivation to enter the technical workforce. In utilizing the human spaceflight angle, HAS was formed.

View of High School Aerospace Scholars (HAS) students working on a project to construct a Mars Rover in the Gilruth Center,
View of High School Aerospace Scholars (HAS) students working on a project to construct a Mars Rover in the Gilruth Center,
“HAS provides much more than just an introduction to NASA’s mission and purpose,” said Cody Kelly, a JSC co-op and HAS alumnus of 2005 who is studying aerospace engineering at Texas A&M University. “HAS proves through action that NASA is not only in the exploration business, but the ‘inspiration’ business.”

Though it would top many kids’ lists to spend a week at NASA working on a project related to NASA’s mission, HAS is only open to Texas residents. Eligible students must be U.S. citizens, in their junior year of high school, have an interest in science, technology, engineering or mathematics fields of study and be committed to a one-year relationship with JSC.

Interested students apply and are nominated by their state legislators to participate. In December, they are notified of their acceptance. However, before the students get to the six-day experience at JSC, they must first complete 10 Web-based activities that include, essays, quizzes, reading, solving problems and a few challenging ones like designing a graphic of a lunar base or Mars colony. A new lesson is due every two weeks and, once completed, graded by a Texas-certified teacher.

The goal for each student is to succeed at all the Web-based assignments so that they will be invited to spend an entire week at JSC, at no cost, with other students to work on a team project in Mars exploration. The students attending are eligible to apply for a one-year science elective from their high schools. Also included in the package is that each student will work with a NASA mentor, hear briefings by astronauts and engineers and get a tour of JSC facilities.

Click for larger imager
High School Aerospace Scholars (HAS) student and NASA/Houston Rocket Club volunteer prepare to launch a rocket at the Antenna Test Range outside Building 14 at JSC.
“Seeing the vision become a reality and using human spaceflight as the inspiration for these students to pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematic degrees and careers is very exciting and rewarding,” said Linda Smith, Education specialist and Texas Aerospace Scholars Program manager.

To date, 4,096 students have been nominated by their legislators, and 2,129 have participated. This summer, 355 earned the opportunity to come to JSC for the weeklong residential experience.

“HAS is a proven model, but each year we update and revise to keep it fresh and aligned with the space program,” Smith said.

So what does the future hold for HAS? Smith said they hope to expand to other states, as JSC has reached the maximum number of weeks the program can be offered each summer. Currently, replicas of HAS are being offered in Washington at the Museum of Flight and Virginia by NASA Langley Research Center and the Virginia Space Grant Consortium.

The program, funded mainly by the State of Texas and JSC, also partners with the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and Rotary National Award for Space Achievement. HAS is under the umbrella of Texas Aerospace Scholars and was the impetus for Middle School Aerospace Scholars and Community College Aerospace Scholars, all supporting the goal of an increased technical workforce in the state.

For more information about HAS and related programs, visit: http://aerospacescholars.jsc.nasa.gov/

Jenna Maddix
Johnson Space Center, Houston

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