Columbia State Student Chosen as NASA Scholar

Student standing in front of green wall
Photo Caption:
 Eric D’Ambro

(COLUMBIA, Tenn. – Oct. 14, 2015) - - - Columbia State Community College student Eric D’Ambro was one of approximately 40 students chosen to participate in the National Community College Aerospace Scholars program from Oct. 20-23 at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

“Eric is extremely motivated and exhibits his capability in complex coursework as well as in his knowledge and experience of computer aided drawing and various physics and engineering principles,” said Dr. Glenn Hudson, associate professor of mathematics.

Hudson said the application process for NCAS is competitive. NASA chooses about 300 students nationwide to participate in a five-week online program which is then narrowed down to approximately 120 of the top scorers for on-site participation – around 40 at each location – Johnson Space Center, Marshall Space Flight Center, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

D’Ambro finished the five-week online program over the summer with an overall score of 98.5 percent. In order to finish the course, he completed four different modules, watched webinars by NASA instructors, completed quizzes, and wrote a final paper that was a start-to-finish description of a “Mission to Mars.”

“This paper was a big deal,” D’Ambro explained. “I had to detail the costs, publicity and marketing, outreach program, job listings with position descriptions, a full chronological order of construction and design of the Mars rover, including the materials I would use, and detailed surface operations. It was very detailed, and I made a very high score on it.”

While at NASA, D’Ambro will have an opportunity to interact with NASA engineers, educators and astronauts who will act as mentors and guides. He will join other community college students who will be split into teams for a competition, where they will be awarded points based on criteria such as mission completion, teamwork and other assignments.

D’Ambro has attended Columbia State for two years in preparation for transferring to a four-year institution that has a mechanical engineering program. He has multiple years’ experience in drawing 2-D and 3-D objects commonly encountered in engineering and has assisted other students with learning this powerful skill.

Last spring, D’Ambro was extensively involved with the introduction of radio controlled aircraft into the physics laboratory curriculum as well as supporting the STEM GiRLS Workshop. He is also a physics department lab assistant this fall semester and has helped implement the new 3-D printing technology at Columbia State.

“We are extremely proud of Eric’s accomplishments in the pre-engineering program and know that he will represent himself, his family and the college well in the upcoming visit to the Marshall Space Flight Center,” Hudson said. “We believe he will become a very capable engineer.”

D’Ambro, a Chicago native, is a resident of Spring Hill where he graduated from Independence High School. He plans to graduate from Columbia State in the spring and transfer to Lipscomb University or Tennessee Technological University where he’ll major in mechanical engineering.

NCAS is a semester-long educational program in which a select group of students participate in web-based activities, a behind-the-scenes tour of NASA and a three-day hands-on engineering experience. The students chosen as aerospace scholars must be U.S. citizens that are currently pursuing an undergraduate degree at a community college and should have a strong interest in math, science, engineering and computer science. 

Columbia State is a two-year college, serving a nine-county area in southern Middle Tennessee with locations in Columbia, Franklin, Lawrenceburg, Lewisburg and Clifton. As Tennessee’s first community college, Columbia State is committed to increasing access and enhancing diversity at all five campuses. Columbia State is a member of the Tennessee Board of Regents, one of the largest higher education systems in the nation. For more information, please visit www.columbiastate.edu.

Tennessee’s Community Colleges is a system of 13 colleges offering a high-quality, affordable, convenient and personal education to prepare students to achieve their educational and career goals in two years or less. We offer associate degree and certificate programs, workforce development programs and transfer pathways to four-year degrees. For more information, please visit us online at tncommunitycolleges.org.

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