MCC students chosen for NASA’s NCAS project

Cameron Piotti, who will go to Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia in Fall 2018. Cameron Piotti, will have an on-site experience at Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia in Fall 2018. MESA, Ariz. – Sept. 25, 2018 – Ten Mesa Community College students have been selected to participate in this fall’s National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) National Community College Aerospace Scholars project (NCAS). Three MCC students just completed the summer session of the three-day experience. Students from across the nation are chosen to participate through a competitive process.

NCAS is an interactive online learning opportunity highlighted by a three-day experience at a NASA center. The on-site event provides students with opportunities to interact with NASA engineers and other experts as they learn more about careers in science and engineering. While at NASA, students form teams and establish fictional companies interested in Mars exploration. Each team is responsible for developing and testing a prototype rover, forming a company infrastructure, managing a budget and developing communications and outreach.

The on-site experience at NASA includes a tour of facilities and briefings by NASA subject matter experts.

MCC professor Dennis Kibbe said he was not surprised when he heard his student, Jenna Connolly, got into the NCAS program. He described her as an exemplary student who is always doing more than expected of her. Kibbe said the program is one step on the path toward a bright future.

“Programs like NASA's Community College Scholarship program gives our students the confidence to follow their dreams and make the most of their talents,” Kibbe said.

Connolly will travel to Ohio at the end of the September for her on-site experience.  

“I just got done with the online program and I received 98 percent,” Connolly said. “I did well enough to go to NASA and I get to program Lego rovers.”

MCC student Derek McDonald went to Ames Research Center in northern California this past July. He said the rover competition, using Lego’s programmable robotics kits, was especially interesting.

“It was a really inspiring experience, I felt that I could really be myself,” McDonald said. “I was surrounded by ‘nerds’ just like myself. One morning when we were all getting on the bus our student mentor announced water was confirmed on Mars and the whole bus cheered. Being around a large group of people that share a common passion gives you the fuel to keep going. I can go on and on about this amazing experience and would highly recommend anyone and everyone to apply and have their own adventure with NASA.”

Another MCC student, Cameron Piotti, an astronomy major, will go to Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia for his on-site experience.

"This opportunity means a lot to me because to me it shows that I have started to take control of my future and have started my path to NASA as well as my journey to becoming an astronomer."

MCC students in the NCAS summer project:

  1. Derek McDonald
  2. Zachary Taylor
  3. Trevor Bailey

MCC students in the NCAS  fall project:

  1. Devon Booze
  2. Anthony Burch
  3. Jenna Connolly  
  4. Daniel Cross
  5. Kaylor  Davis
  6. Jacob Fuqua
  7. William Horne
  8. Landon Kea
  9. Marissa Leonard
  10. Cameron Piotti   

NCAS is a program sponsored by the NASA Minority University Research Education Program (MUREP):

MCC alumna Heather Thomas, a 2011 NCAS scholar and former Phi Theta Kappa member, currently resides in Houston, Texas, fulfilling her dream of being a full time NASA employee. Her story is available on NASA’s website at:

MCC alumnus, Patrick McGarey, (2008-2009), will be sharing his educational and career journey with current MCC students Sept. 26 at 11 a.m. in PS 101 at the Southern and Dobson Campus, prior to starting his new position in NASA’s jet propulsion lab in Pasadena, Calf.

For additional information on National Community College Aerospace Scholars and to access the application, visit For more on MUREP visit:    

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Media contact: Dawn Zimmer,, 480-461-7892

Mesa Community College is nationally recognized for service-learning, career and technical programs, civic engagement and innovative approaches to higher education. The college serves as a resource for career readiness, transfer education, workforce development and lifelong learning. Host to more than 30,000 students annually, MCC offers more than 150 degree and certificate programs at its two campuses and additional locations. MCC is an emerging Hispanic Serving Institution with a diverse student body that enriches the learning experience. Renowned faculty are dedicated to student success, providing the education and training that empowers MCC students to compete locally and nationally. MCC, located in the East Valley of Phoenix, Arizona, is one of 10 colleges comprising the Maricopa County Community College District. For additional information visit

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Publication Date: 
Monday, September 24, 2018