Zackary Hammack didn’t have his head in the stars when he first came to Tyler Junior College, but he does now.
Hammack, a TJC sophomore from Flint, began his studies with an interest in architecture.
As he became immersed in TJC’s engineering design technology courses, his focus shifted to space, which prompted him to apply – and get accepted – to the NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars program.
He was one of 41 community college students accepted into last summer’s program to explore science, technology, engineering and mathematics career paths within NASA. The program consisted of two phases: a five-week online session to provide scholars with a foundation of knowledge about Mars exploration, and a three-day workshop at a NASA center.
Scholar programs are offered at NASA centers across the country, but Hammack’s was at Johnson Space Center in Houston.
For the final project, student teams could choose between creating a plan for a mission to Mars or designing their own Mars rover.
“I chose to be on the Mars rover project because, as an engineering design technology major, I already had the tools necessary to start a design,” Hammack said.
“Through this experience, I got to do so many things I never thought I would do,” he said. “I was in the room next door to astronauts going through psychological training. I got explore the mock-up space station facility where the astronauts train. I got to see so many things and examine them up close.”
The NASA experience lived up to his every expectation, he said, and he came home with a clear goal of working there someday.
“It made it seem like working at NASA is within reach,” he said. “It can be a reality.”
Hammack plans to graduate from TJC in May 2017 with an Associate of Applied Science degree in engineering design technology, and he’s currently applying for an internship that would either take him back to Johnson Space Center or to NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center located at Edwards Air Force Base in California.
“From the NASA scholar program, I learned that the goal is to get your foot in the door and hopefully be able continue your education there.”
Hammack singled out TJC physics professor Doug Parsons for his influence and Dan Seal, TJC engineering design technology professor, who wrote letter of recommendation for his application.
“TJC has been a great experience and shaped who I am and really opened my eyes to the possibilities and my full potential,” he said.
For more on TJC applied science programs, including engineering design technology, go to www.tjc.edu/proftech.