Wallace State’s Kaitlin Richards, Ryan Ratliff selected as NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars

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Wallace State students Kaitlyn Richards, left, and Ryan Ratliff have both been selected to travel to NASA’s Stennis Space Center this summer to participate in NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars onsite experience.

HANCEVILLE –  Wallace State students Kaitlin Richards and Ryan Ratliff have been selected to travel to NASA’s Stennis Space Center this summer to participate in the NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars (NCAS) onsite experience.

Richards and Ratliff are two of only 280 community college students from across the U.S. to be part of the NCAS onsite experience.

The five-week online activity culminates with a four-day on-site event at a NASA Center and offers students the opportunity to interact with NASA engineers and others as they learn more about careers in science and engineering. While at NASA, students form teams and establish fictional companies interested in Mars exploration. Each team is responsible for developing and testing a prototype rover, forming a company infrastructure, managing a budget, and developing communications and outreach.

The onsite experience at NASA includes briefings by NASA subject matter experts, information on how to apply for internships and a tour of NASA’s unique facilities.

“I'm extremely excited to work with the engineers at NASA and learn things to aid my pursuit of an aerospace engineering degree! I'll be assigned to one of four teams of students, who share the same passion in creating innovative technology to study and explore space. My dream is to work for NASA, so I can work with innovations to spacecraft design and propulsion systems. Earning a spot for this on-site experience has showed me my dreams can become a reality. I hope to walk away from this experience with a greater understanding of where I am headed,” said Richards, 24. 

Added Ratliff: “It’s been an awesome experience so far. I don’t know if words can adequately describe how much I’ve learned and how valuable it’s been. I’ve been programming robots and learning how to develop 3-D software among other things. It’s as in-depth of a program as you could ask for. It’s blown me away.”

Richards and Ratliff are both set to transfer to UAH beginning with fall semester. While Richards plans to major in aerospace engineering, Ratliff will major in mechanical engineering.  

Richards and Ratliff were each nominated for the program by Wallace State math instructor Renee Quick.

“I’m very proud of both of Kaitlyn and Ryan. They are both great students, and I’m very excited to see we had two students accepted into the program this year. We’ve had students selected in the past, but this is the first time in a while to have two selected at the same time,” Quick said. “I know they’ll both do a great job, and I look forward to seeing them get to experience visiting the Johnson Space Center.”

Richards and Ratliff were selected among a large pool of candidates based on their application profile, submitted essay and letter of recommendation.   

NASA’s Community College Aerospace Scholars is a project funded in part by the Minority University Research and Education Program, or MUREP, which is committed to the recruitment of underrepresented and underserved students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to sustain a diverse workforce.  

With this activity, NASA continues the agency’s tradition engaging the nation in NASA’s mission. 

“NCAS not only inspires community college students to advance in STEM fields, but it also opens doors for future careers at NASA. NCAS has a legacy of alumni moving from NASA internships to and ultimately entering the NASA workforce. It is rewarding to see the progression of a student from NCAS participant to NASA colleague,” said Joeletta Patrick, Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP) manager

For more information about Wallace State, visit www.wallacestate.edu.