Austin students selected to join NASA Aerospace Scholar Program

It's an intensive course that offers juniors a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work side-by-side with the country's brightest teams.

AUSTIN - Two Austin high school students have been selected to join NASA's Aerospace Scholars program.
It's an intensive course that offers juniors a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work side-by-side with the country's brightest teams.

For Anderson High School junior Bailey Williams, she knew early on what she was meant to do.

"I think its important to work something you're passionate for," Williams said. "As a kid I was always really interested in space, I always had like a space book around, it was one of my favorite books."

It's the same path her classmate, Leah Griffin, has taken proudly. 

"I took a class at UT that was about astrochemistry and ever since then I just fell in love with astronomy," Griffin said. 

After years of hard work, both girls are now getting a chance to be a part of a rare learning experience -- an aerospace scholar program with NASA.

"It was a shock, I kind of didn't believe it at first," Williams said.

Williams and Griffin are just two of the select students nominated by state representatives to study in highly competitive STEM courses. The program is designed to challenge students in 3-D drawings, video creation and interactive lessons.

"You always think as a kid, 'Oh, they're professionals, I can't work with them.' But this is going against that and letting kids really work with people," Williams added. 

The two will also be able to have virtual chats with NASA engineers and scientists. 

"I think in high school, you learn a lot of the theory," Griffin said. "But then actually taking a class where you can really implement what you learn."

For Griffin, science and robotics are her passions, and she says she's proud to represent girls in STEM -- a subject she hopes more of her classmates find an interest in.

"It's often as issue that girls have mental block that STEM isn't for them because they always can't get the right answer or because they feel underrepresented," Griffin added.

But Williams says there has been a shift.

"Over the past few years it's definitely gotten a lot bigger and I think there's a lot more promotions to help women go into the science field, there's a lot being done to work towards that," she said. 

At the end of the course, students with the highest scores are then chosen to advance for a week-long visit at the Johnson Space Center to get a more hands-on approach. They work on team projects to develop mission plans to Mars, they are also able to sit in on briefings with NASA staff. 

But for now, the two hope to walk away with one important lesson.

"I hope to gain a broader knowledge of the universe and what it entails," Griffin said. 

Both are ready to push their limits beyond the stars.

To learn more about the NASA Scholar Program, click here

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