ACC student soars in NASA's scholar program

If you spoke to Austin Community College student Laura Colten last year, her story would sound a lot different.

"I am a mother of three. I was skeptical about starting over and going back to school,” says Colten. “Would I have enough time? Will my kids suffer because I am so busy?”

But Colten’s aspirations for something better and something new pushed her to enroll at ACC. She signed up for classes in spring 2018 with a focus on computer science. By the end of the semester, Laura was moving forward in her classes and taking on a new challenge.

She applied and was selected to participate in the 2018 NASA internship program. The National Community College Aerospace Scholars program (NCAS) gives community college STEM students an authentic NASA experience and encourages them to finish 2-year degree or transfer to a four-year university to pursue a NASA-related field or career.

The five-week long scholars program includes a four-day onsite event at one of ten NASA field centers across the country. Colten went to Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

“I have always been fascinated with NASA and aerospace exploration. I grew up 90 miles southeast of Houston, so I was fortunate enough to visit Johnson Space Center on numerous occasions.”

AT NASA, Colten teamed up with other students and NASA engineers to design, build, and test a prototype rover that could be used in Mars exploration.

“Our team actually won the prototype competition. It was an incredible experience. Not only was I able to learn and bond with my teammates, I got a first-hand look inside NASA and worked directly with NASA engineers. This program renewed my faith about my decision to go back to school.”

Colten will graduate with her associate’s degree in spring 2019 and plans to transfer to a four-year university to earn a bachelor’s degree.

“IT is not the industry people think it is. It’s fast-growing and it offers so many unique opportunities,” says Colten. “Technology is ever-evolving, so I will always be learning.”

For more information about ACC’s Computer Science and IT degrees and programs, visit

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