Few students can say they were able to create a mission plan to explore Mars, but UNT student Samantha Boie was able to do just that by participating in the NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars (NCAS) onsite experience at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in February. Boie, who transferred to UNT this semester from North Central Texas College, was one of 171 community college students from across the U.S. who were selected to be part of the NCAS onsite experience.

UNT Student Samantha BoieAfter completing five weeks of online courses and a final project which consisted of creating a Mars mission plan, Boie was invited to a four-day, on-site event at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. While there, she had the opportunity to interact with NASA engineers and other staff and learn more about careers in science and engineering. She and the other participating students also formed teams and established fictional companies interested in Mars exploration. Each team was responsible for developing and testing a prototype rover, forming a company infrastructure, managing a budget and developing communications and outreach.

“I served as the chief operations engineer for my team, and the best part of the experience was building a robot from scratch,” said Boie.

Boie’s onsite experience at NASA also included briefings by NASA subject matter experts, information on how to apply for internships and a tour of NASA’s unique facilities, all of which had a major impact on her career plans.

“I, and many of the students who participated, never thought we could actually work for NASA, but the program inspired us and showed us that anything is possible,” she said. “My goal is to earn an internship and eventually a full-time position with NASA. I hope to one day become an astronaut and travel to the International Space Station.”

Boie also has become a spokesperson for the program, sharing her experience with her fellow students and encouraging them to apply for NASA internships as well. She also hopes to work with the UNT astronomy department in setting up a video call for students to chat live with the astronauts aboard the International Space Station.

Though she is still exploring all that UNT has to offer, Boie feels that the university will help her achieve her goals. She is contemplating switching her major from ecology to biomedical engineering, which better aligns with her career path.

“There’s a lot to do here at UNT, and I am grateful for all of the resources that will help me accomplish everything I set out to do,” she said.

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Contact: Ray Willhoft, 940-565-2464, raymond.willhoft@unt.edu