KENTFIELD / NOVATO, CA—College of Marin (COM) students have opportunities to expand their knowledge in countless ways—the sky is literally the limit for students following the College’s recent acceptance into an exclusive NASA-backed program.
The California Space Grant Consortium (CaSGC), a NASA-funded program that helps fund projects to encourage more participation from underrepresented groups in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and provide university-level study for community college students. COM is using its funding to start a science hub that will give students a variety of opportunities beyond the normal physics, engineering, and astronomy curriculum, including the opportunity to participate in an internship with NASA over the summer.
The science hub is led by Astronomy and Physics Professor Antonino Cucchiara, Ph.D., who selected students from the astronomy, physics, and engineering programs, as well as the Puente and Umoja groups on campus.
In an effort to support the goals of the CaSGC program, the student makeup is 40 percent women and 55 percent from underrepresented groups. Cucchiara said the program will highlight the commitment of COM to increasing diversity and becoming more inclusive in its STEM-related departments.
“Aligning these activities with the broader effort of the College will provide new avenues for African American, Latinx, and other underrepresented students to explore academic and career paths that they may not have considered before,” Cucchiara said. “Through these fun, hands-on experiences, these students will gain skills that will allow them to explore a new world in a safe, stress-free environment while interacting with NASA scientists and other like-minded students.”
The funding, which lasts three years, will afford COM students the chance to attend a NASA research seminar and meet with NASA scientists to learn more about their research challenges and to get career counseling advice. They will also get to participate in webinars prepared by the California-based NASA research centers.
Students will also receive a $650 stipend to fund team projects that they will present to NASA scientists and engineers during their visit to the research lab. According to CaSGC, students have previously put together projects in near-space ballooning, small satellites, UAV auto-pilots, autonomous ground robots, and wearable sensor vests for sports and health monitoring.
Participation in the Consortium also funds professional development for COM faculty, including a field trip to a NASA research facility to learn how to bring NASA content to their campus programs and their STEM projects.
To learn more about the astronomy offerings at COM, visit academics.marin.edu/program/astr. For information about other departments under Physical Sciences, including physics and engineering, visit academics.marin.edu. To learn more about the California Space Grant Consortium’s work with community colleges, visit casgc.ucsd.edu/?page_id=7301.