Eighteen Los Fresnos High School juniors have successfully completed the prestigious NASA High School Aerospace Scholars Program through an exclusive partnership with Texas A&M University.
The students will now receive an invitation to an online summer experience that includes team projects and briefings directed by NASA engineers and scientists, hands-on design challenges and engineering activities planning an Artemis-themed mission.
Students from all over Texas applied for the program and 943 were accepted. Only 68 percent of students were able to complete the four modules, and 64 percent were able to pass it. LFHS had 80 percent of its students start and complete it, and 75 percent were invited to the Moonshot competition this summer.
The 18 students include Omar Alanis, Reina Apacible, Bernardo Avendaño, Daniela Cardenas, Adrian Castillo, Luis Chavez, Milton Chavez, Gabriana Garrido, Samantha Gaznares, Adam Guillen, Samantha Jones, Angela Loera, Kyle Londrie, Ethan Maciel, Aaron Molina, Keane Ogao, Matthew Ovalle and Rebeka Sanchez.
The HAS program has proven to have lasting effects for participants as they go on to pursue their education and careers. Thanks to the partnership with Texas A&M, each student has earned a $1,000 scholarship to the college of their choice. Students will also receive a visit to the College of Engineering at Texas A&M University in College Station which offers more than 20 graduate and undergraduate degrees through 15 departments including Aerospace Engineering.
Texas A&M’s lead on the HAS program gave the LFHS students the opportunity to have a hands-on STEM experience. For years, HAS has encouraged and enlightened Texas students, all while building a new workforce of scientists and engineers ready to serve the nation’s future explorations.
“These students are an example for the state,” said Valarie Londrie, Executive Director for Academics. “We have already had calls from NASA asking us ‘What is it with the Los Fresnos students who have done a tremendous job and what we can do to replicate this at other school districts throughout the state?’
“They should be proud of themselves.”
Students come from small towns and big cities all over Texas. Through HAS, they discover they are not alone in their interests as they meet other like-minded students who have different backgrounds and ideas.
“I was excited to be part of this opportunity,” said Samantha Gaznares, who hopes to become an aerospace engineer. “When I heard NASA, I wanted to get on board right away. It was hard at first because all the instruction was virtual. But the passion that we all have helped us to get through it.”
As part of the Moonshot Competition, the students will work with a specially constructed curriculum designed to prepare them for a specific task – planning a mission to Mars. It will offer numerous world-class applications mentored by NASA engineers and scientists that are not available in the traditional classrooms.
The students will wrap up their HAS experience by presenting their Mars mission projects to a team of NASA technical experts who will grade their assignments.
“I hope to work for NASA,” said Adrian Castillo, who plans to major in electrical engineering. “What I learned the most was how NASA impacts our lives in technology, not just in space exploration. I didn’t know that NASA had developed so many technologies. It’s a great opportunity for other students because you get a better understanding what NASA is.”
After the students complete the summer program, they will be considered HAS alumni to mentor future students in the program. Several HAS alumni work for NASA now.
Three LFHS teachers prepared the students through the rigorous program. They were:
- Javier Martinez, PLTW Engineering Teacher
- Hector Peñaflor, Mathematics Teacher
- David Rivera, Ph.D., Physics Teacher
“All the credit goes to the students,” Rivera said. “The mental fortitude they displayed was incredible.”
LFHS was invited to be part of the Texas A&M pilot for two years. Students in the Class of 2023 will have the opportunity to take part. The 18 juniors now, members of the Class of 2022, will be on campus to mentor the juniors.
“I knew it would be a big responsibility,” said Samantha Jones, hopes to major in architecture or engineering. “It took a lot of initiative to sign on and work. It was a great experience, and I would do it all over again.”
Students in the photograph are:
-- Bottom row (left to right): Kyle Londrie, Samantha Gaznares
– Second row: Milton Chavez, Reiana Apacible, Samantha Jones
– Third row: Adrian Castillo, Adam Guillen, Angela Loera, Gabriana Garrido
– Fourth row: Bernardo Avendaño, Ethan Maciel, Aaron Molina, Daniela Cardenas
– Top row: Teachers Javier Martinez, Hector Peñaflor, David Rivera, Ph.D.