NASA Scholars Program chooses Leeward CC student from 5,000 applicants

Chester Leoso

A highly competitive NASA program has selected an information and computer science student from Leeward Community College for its next cohort. Chester Leoso was accepted into the NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars (NCAS) program in January.

The program attracted more than 5,000 applicants nationwide, and only 147 were selected with Leoso as the only student admitted from Hawaii. Oklahoma State University hosts the NCAS program (to be held virtually this year) and will provide opportunities for researchers to network within NASA to potentially gain internships or related jobs.

“Knowing that the net probability of being accepted was 10% was satisfying once the acceptance email arrived,” Leoso said. “It’s one of those feelings that leaves you wondering about the limits of your abilities and you start to gain confidence in yourself and your abilities.”

His interest in NASA and space exploration grew out of a newsletter he received from Academic Advisor Nothing Vidad. This led to a hobby involving the combination of art and physics to create works of art. Leoso also credited Leeward CC To advise Amy Ampere with his accomplishments.

“Leeward was my co-pilot on the path to success in my college career, showing me where to turn and what to avoid,” Leoso said. “Leeward side CC offers students more than just an education. It is up to each student to utilize and maximize what Leeward CC provides its students, it will always be in your favor as long as you take a leap of faith.

The NASA program

This year NCAS The program includes three unique learning experiences, giving Scholars deeper insight into NASA’s unique missions while developing their talents, interests, and passions while pursuing future careers in STEM.

  • In their first “Discover” mission, the researchers participate in a five-week online course to learn more about the mission and NASA research. During the course, they attend lectures by NASA subject matter experts, are guided by professional educators, engage with interactive NASA multimedia content, and interact with other scholars.
  • If successful, scholars can be selected to move on to the second mission, “Engage”. Fellows will participate in a STEM engineering design challenge, collaborate in a team environment, learn how to navigate NASA internships, and receive feedback on their personal resumes. Researchers can participate in a NASA-led gamified mission to the Moon or Mars.
  • Some scholars will move on to the third mission, “Explore”. In this mission, scholars will work alongside NASA researchers to develop solutions to current challenges facing NASA.

Beyond NASA

Leoso, who is on track to graduate in May, said he plans to continue his college education in computer science before eventually working in the field.

“I’m so proud of Chester and thrilled to see his story continue to unfold,” Amper said. “He is also now a SCI tutor. It really takes a team effort and I feel privileged to work with such a wonderful SCI team… and our students who never cease to amaze me.

Vidad added: “I’m so proud of Chester and can’t wait to see what lies ahead! He has such a bright future!

-by Tad Saiki

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