August 26, 2019
Aug. 26, 2019—Alia Nathani, a senior at Langham Creek High School, recently participated and excelled in the NASA High School Aerospace Scholars, which included a weeklong residential summer program where she helped create, design and build models for the task of planning how to live on Mars.
Nathani qualified through a competitive selection process where she not only needed an expressed interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), but also be nominated by a state legislator. She was among 270 students across Texas selected for the program.
“The opportunity was truly incredible,” Nathani said. “We got to stay there for only a week but it seriously felt like we were there for several weeks because we accomplished so much every day. We got the opportunity to learn from so many different NASA speakers, engineers and scientists.”
Scholars selected for the program complete a four-month online portion during the 2018-2019 school year, with NASA activities and a state-aligned curriculum focusing on Earth, aeronautics, the International Space Station, journey to Mars and the solar system. Nathani’s excellence in the online portion earned her an all-expenses-paid spot in June at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.
At the center, Nathani and other program participants were placed into teams to complete a Mars mission design challenge. They also completed hands-on activities to support the research and toured the center facilities.
Nathani was eventually among the few scholars selected to represent their respective teams at the closing ceremony and discuss their progress, projects and experiences with NASA engineers, education specialists, scientists, mentors and families of the aerospace scholars.
“That moment when we finished our presentation, it felt just so good to know that everything we had worked for in the past year culminated to this and we were able to complete it successfully,” Nathani said. “We learned so much and that was really awesome.”
Nathani coupled her experience in the program this summer with an internship at Rice University in the Tribomechadynamics Laboratory. She conducted research on a scaled model of a drill string test rig alongside undergraduate and graduate students.
“It was truly memorable,” Nathani said. “Participating in such programs has been a stimulating experience as they not only allow me to explore my passions but also give me an exposure to the research and science that I will encounter in the future.”