Kalamazoo Valley student Angelina Burnett is traveling to the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama to participate in a three-day on-site event. She was selected as one of 40 college students from across the nation to be part of the National Community College Aerospace Scholars project.
Burnett said about 5,000 college students applied to participate in the project. She was one of 188 selected to participate. Of those 188, just 40, including Burnett, are going to the NASA event later this month. She was the only student from Michigan to participate.
The chemical engineering student describes herself as a non-traditional student. She is married with five children and has been a Kalamazoo Valley student for two years. She is on track to graduate this summer and plans to transfer to Western Michigan University.
Burnett found the National Community College Aerospace Scholars project while combing through websites looking for advanced learning opportunities for engineering students. The project, which took place primarily online, began last summer. The assignment involved developing a robotic mission to Mars. Burnett and the other students were given an overview detailing science objectives. The realistic project involved determining whether the mission would be solar- or nuclear-powered and setting a budget to cover the cost of fuel and rockets, plus designing the spacecraft itself. “They literally left it open so that we could make anything we wanted,” Burnett said. “If you could imagine it and you could tie it in with the project, you could use it. If I get to do anything like this when I’m working in the field, it would be the coolest thing ever,” she said. She said she especially enjoyed calling experts in the field to research topics like the cost of rocket fuel.
Toward the end of the project, Burnett participated in two nights of videoconferences with NASA engineers. She and the project’s other participants are being encouraged to stay in contact with the NASA Aerospace Scholars program and to apply for other opportunities through NASA.
The upcoming visit to NASA represents the culmination of the project. “We were selected to go to the event based on how well we did in the program,” Burnett said. “I got a perfect score.” The program is meant to offer students from across the nation the opportunity to interact with each other while they learn more about careers in science and engineering. In addition to collaborating on a Mars exploration project, the students will tour NASA facilities and participate in briefings with noted NASA employees.
Burnett, a member of Kalamazoo Valley’s Phi Theta Kappa honor society, said she thinks it’s important to look for opportunities for growth. “I’m so glad I did this project because it was so much fun. The timing for it was perfect.”