COC student receives NASA aerospace scholars internship

Patrick Gagnon received the NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars Internship. Gagnon said the experience from working on projects like the High Altitude Student Payload and RockSat-X offered him the exposure, support and confidence to apply to the NCAS internship.

One local College of the Canyons student will receive real-world job experience and networking opportunities at a NASA facility after successfully securing the NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars Internship.

The internship “gives community college STEM students an authentic NASA experience and encourages them to finish a two-year degree or transfer to a four-year university to pursue a NASA-related field or career,” according to its website.

Internship recipient Patrick Gagnon said it’s a valuable chance to get a foot in the door with NASA.

“The opportunity is really helpful because something like 50 percent of NCAS interns who apply for real or full-time positions at NASA end up getting in,” Gagnon said.

After participating in a highly competitive five-week online course that covered NASA’s history and Mars exploration before concluding with a final project, Gagnon said the students who did the best in the course were selected to do an on-site experience.

Gagnon said he has been assigned to the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, where he will participate in a four-day engineering workshop alongside real NASA scientists and engineers.

Once at the Stennis Space Center, which is NASA’s largest rocket test facility, Gagnon said, “We’ll be broken into teams and will be responsible for creating a mock company that is interested in receiving a Mars exploration contract.”

The interns and teams will compete in practical and logistical challenges throughout the four-day program, Gagnon said.

“These positions are very competitive. Anybody who’s trying to get their foot in the door at NASA needs to have this exposure,” Gagnon said, adding that he appreciates the fact that the opportunity is available to community college students. “It helps a lesser known demographic by giving them the opportunity to get the same experience that you would at a university, (which) allows us to remain competitive in the process.”

Projects like High Altitude Student Payload and RockSat-X offered Gagnon the exposure, support and confidence to apply for the internship, he said. “COC is ahead of their time as far as a community college is concerned. The adviser Teresa Ciardi is always looking for opportunities that will allow us to further our career and accomplish our dreams.”

Gagnon said he would not be in the position he is today without COC helping him realize his potential.

“I encourage other community college students to try things that they might not think they can do,” he added. “You never know how successful you might end up.”

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