College of Marin Looks to the Stars in NASA-Funded Program

The sky is the limit–literally–for students at College of Marin, following the college’s recent acceptance into an exclusive NASA-backed grant program.

The California Space Grant Consortium (CaSGC) is a NASA-funded program that provides university-level educational opportunities for community college students and encourages underrepresented groups to participate in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) projects.

College of Marin is using its funding from the program to start a science hub that will give students a variety of studies beyond the normal physics, engineering, and astronomy curriculum; including the opportunity to participate in an internship with NASA over the summer.

Astronomy and Physics Professor Antonino Cucchiara, Ph.D., leads the science hub and selected students from the astronomy, physics, and engineering programs, as well as the Puente and Umoja groups on campus, to participate.

In an effort to support the CaSGC program’s inclusivity goals, the student makeup is 40-percent women and 55-percent from underrepresented groups. Cucchiara notes the program will highlight the college’s commitment to increasing diversity 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 says in a statement. “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 College of Marin 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. Students will also get to participate in webinars prepared by the California-based NASA research centers.

Students participating in the program 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 the college’s 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 College of Marin, visit marin.edu. To learn more about the California Space Grant Consortium’s work with community colleges, visit casgc.ucsd.edu.

Charlie Swanson
Charlie Swanson is a North Bay native and an arts and music writer and editor who has covered the local scene since 2014.
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