Nilda Oyola, Tony Kalish to Visit Johnson Space Center in Houston for NCCAS Program

MIDDLETOWN, N.Y. – SUNY Orange students Nilda L. Oyola and Tony L. Kalish will work alongside other community college scholars, National Aeronautics and Space Administration engineers and astronauts at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, for three days in May as part of the National Community College Aerospace Scholars program.

PHOTO: Tony Kalish and Nilda OyolaOyola (right), of Walden, and Kalish, of Campbell Hall, are among 76 students from community colleges in 28 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico who will convene at the Johnson Space Center to learn more about careers in science and engineering, and to discuss the development of robotic explorers that will rove the surfaces of other worlds.

Oyola, a non-traditional adult student who also holds a full-time job, is studying business administration at SUNY Orange. She will be the only business student among the 76 participants in the event. Kalish, who returned to SUNY Orange this year following a tour of duty in Iraq, is an engineering student. Both are due to graduate this May but will miss the College’s May 22 Commencement ceremony to attend the NASA program. SUNY Orange is the only college sending two representatives to the workshop.

The three-day event culminates the National Community College Aerospace Scholars pilot program. Students completed four Web-based assignments during the past academic year, including submitting a preliminary design for an unmanned space rover. Those who maintained a 95 average qualified for the experience at Johnson. NASA will pay the students’ travel expenses. The students will apply what they have learned during the year and interact with NASA engineers.

Program participants will form teams and establish fictitious companies interested in Mars exploration. Each team will be responsible for developing a prototype rover, designing a line drawing of their rover, and forming a company infrastructure, including budget, communications and presentations. The visit also includes a tour of the Johnson Space Center’s facilities and briefings from NASA employees, including astronauts.

“This is a fantastic accomplishment for our students,” said SUNY Orange professor John Wolbeck, who instructed both Oyola and Kalish in his astronomy class. “Tony is one of our best engineering students and Nilda is my astronomy superstar.”

“NASA is very proud of the outstanding work these students already have completed, and we look forward to seeing their rover designs,” said Deborah Hutchings, the program manager at Johnson. “These students have a unique opportunity to preview how a career in science, technology, engineering or math can lead them on a journey
of space exploration.”

The students hail from Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

“This represents another innovative NASA project whereby community college students engage in actual engineering design and production—from concept to build-out—that simulate the process NASA uses in designing robotic explorers for solar system destinations,” said Joyce Winterton, associate administrator for education at NASA
Headquarters in Washington. “It successfully demonstrates and furthers the participants' academic knowledge in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.”

The National Community College Aerospace Scholars is a pilot program based on the Texas Aerospace Scholars, a program created by the state of Texas in partnership with Johnson Space Center and the Texas education community. Both programs are designed to encourage community and junior college students to enter careers in science and engineering, and join the nation’s high-technology workforce. With this program, NASA continues the agency’s investment in the nation’s students with a goal of attracting them to the science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines critical to NASA's future missions.

» Back to Headlines

Mike Albright
Communications Officer
115 South Street
Middletown, NY 10940