NASA College program sends students on virtual mission to the Moon
(TNS) – Amara Ihekwoeme, a student at Butte College, got the chance of a lifetime when the National Aeronautics and Space Administration selected her to participate in a NASA project and to attend the Virtual Aerospace Scholars Experience from NASA Community College from August 3-9.
“We had a mentor from NASA,” Ihekwoeme said. “I was project manager and responsible for the budget.”
Ihekwoeme participated in missions where she discovered the moon and Mars. She worked with classmates and served as a project manager and budget advisor. The 10-member team had to design a mission to the moon or to Mars.
Ihekwoeme, originally from Humboldt County, has lived in Chico for six years. She is studying electrical engineering. She attended high school at Pleasant Valley High School.
Ihekwoeme said last year that her friend recommended the program to her and found it really interesting.
“We picked the moon and designed a mission. We figured out what rocket we were using and what science instruments we were using. We explored dark areas and went into caves. It was fun working with my team. They were all passionate about NASA,” Ihekwoeme said.
Ihekwoeme enjoyed working with his team.
“Overall, we were designing a mission to the moon with a rover and figuring out how much it would cost. We did some engineering design. We had to make some scientific choices; that’s how the mission went. We had a lot of Zoom meetings. There was one on the moon surface study and the rock study. It was cool to meet my team on Zoom. We opened the meeting to people. questions about how to work in a team and learned a lot”, Ihekwoeme
The team will participate in a third mission, which should arrive soon.
“We’re setting things up,” Ihekwoeme said. “The second mission was a week-long project. The first mission lasted a little over a month, where we discovered the moon and Artemis.”
Ihekoeme had to apply for the program and was later invited to the mission. NASA provided them with a course.
“It was really cool to design a rover or an airplane to help us get to the moon. I liked being part of a team,” she said.
After the third mission, Ihekoeme will concentrate on her studies and her work as a cashier in a pharmacy.
She said that this experience was a very good element to put on her CV. She is working towards obtaining a pharmacy technician license and plans to transfer to UC Davis or Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
Team members came from community colleges all over California.
“It was a bonding experience,” Ihekoeme said. “I have some of the students on LinkedIn. I would love to be part of a team again.”
Miles Strelecki, Ihekwoeme’s classmate at Butte College, said Ihekoeme was very excited about the project. He met her in the fall semester of 2021 when they took chemistry classes together.
“I know she was really looking forward to it,” Strelecki said. “She had been talking about it for over a year. It seems like she really enjoyed it. It matched her personality. She really likes math and science and is very smart.”
Strelecki said the program gives students a chance to see if they want to get into the NASA career field.
“She values school a lot,” he said. “She’s really focused on the job and very dedicated.”
Ihekwoeme’s friend Jordan Bennett attended Pleasant Valley with her. They were teammates on the volleyball team.
“Amara is a very calm person,” Bennett said. “Once you get to know her, she’s one of the most special people you’ll ever meet. She’s amazing, a great person, a friend and a teammate. I think she’s grown a lot and become a more confident person. Working with strangers and being in a leadership role was good for her. I am beyond proud of her.
Bennett feels lucky to be Ihekwoeme’s friend.
“She’s so smart,” Bennett said. “Getting to know her is amazing. She’s going to be an amazing young lady. She puts her heart into her work and she does so many cool things.”
Felix Ihekwoeme, Amara Ihekwoeme’s father, is also very proud of her.
“I’m so proud of his interest and curiosity in things like NASA,” he said. “She explores engineering. She’s a curious and meticulous person. She’s very special.”
“She told me about the wording of going to Mars. As a child, she was interested in games, writing and reading books. She also likes to play Minecraft,” Felix Ihekwoeme said.
“She talked about working with computers and engineering,” Felix Ihekwoeme said. “We’ll see how it goes.”
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