Palm Beach State Students Selected To Visit NASA In October

Thirteen Palm Beach State College students will travel to a NASA center this fall to participate in the NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars program.

The students are among 304 community college students from across the U.S. selected for the NCAS program. Initially, the students spent five weeks this summer in an online course, learning about NASA’s missions and research. Out of 21 PBSC students who took the online course, 16 were invited to attend an on-site NASA workshop, and 13 are able to go.

Seven NASA centers are participating, but most of the PBSC students will go to the Kennedy Space Center event Oct. 23-26. During this behind-the-scenes experience, the students will interact with NASA engineers and subject matter experts as they learn more about careers in science and engineering.

The PBSC students attending an on-site event are: Victoria Adams, Mario Aparicio, Oketa Basha, Alexander Cafaro, Robert Dechert, Vitas Diktanas Jr., Damir Fayzulaev, Itai Firan, Katayoun Jamei, Miguel Mattis, Theodore Pena, Lauren Ristaino and Alexander Shaw.

Vitas Diktanas Jr., a master plumber with his own company, said the NCAS program has expanded his career aspirations. Already planning a career move, he returned to PBSC at the beginning of this year to take the prerequisites he needs to transfer into a bachelor’s degree program in engineering. “I wanted to do something with my mind and less with my hands,” Diktanas said.

Inspired by the NCAS program, he is now deciding between pursuing mechanical or aerospace engineering.

“I’ve always loved space, ever since I was a kid,” Diktanas said. “To have the chance to get into anything connected to NASA is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

The NCAS program also has made a big impact on Lauren Ristaino, who is pursuing her associate’s degree with the goal of earning a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. She takes classes part time and works full time as a parts specialist for Braman Porsche. While she has thought of becoming an engineer for Porsche in Germany, because of the NCAS program, she is now considering the possibility of one day working for NASA.

“Once you get through the NCAS program, they actually open up a door for you to have future employment with NASA later on,” Ristaino said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity that a lot of students may not know of.”

NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars is a project funded in part by the Minority University Research and Education Program (MUREP), which is committed to engaging underrepresented and underserved students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.