Engineering Student Wins NASA Scholarship
|Posted: November 12, 2010
A Mt. Hood Community College (MHCC) student recently took a giant leap toward a career in the aerospace industry.
After months of preparation and competition, Christina Nelson, a 40-year-old mechanical engineering student from Gresham, was accepted into NASA’s National Community College Aerospace Scholars program. She spent three days this month at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., where she worked shoulder to shoulder with NASA scientists.
Nelson was one of 90 community college students from across the U.S. who was selected for the elite program. Some scholarship winners, such as Nelson, have an aptitude for engineering, while others excel at mathematics, science or computer science.
The application process consisted of writing a short essay, followed by four questions that required eight weeks of intense research. One of the questions required Nelson to design a rover that would perform a specific function on Mars. “I thought like a kid and used my imagination to create my design,” says Nelson.
“It was very fast paced and enlightening,” she says about her time at NASA. “During the application process, everyone worked individually in order to win a spot in the program. Then, at the Marshall Center, we worked together in teams to design and build components for a rover that would have the ability to collect soil and water samples on Mars and bring them to earth.
“NASA gave us a tough assignment,” says Nelson, who is no stranger to overcoming challenges. She earned her GED (General Educational Diploma) at age 16 and became a mother at a young age. When she returned to school after a 22-year break, she took advantage of the Transitions program at MHCC, which helps women to kick start their college careers.
Nelson soon discovered she has a passion for learning and the drive to succeed. Besides hard work, she credits the Transitions program, her advisers and instructors for her academic success. Her good grades qualified her to join Rho Theta, an academic honor society where she first heard about the opportunity at NASA.
“All the stars must have been aligned in my favor!” says Nelson.
After MHCC, she plans to earn an engineering degree at Portland State University and pursue a career in aeronautics, possibly at NASA or Boeing.