“It’s not exactly rocket science,” says senior Sam Clemons, but it was rocket science last summer, when he participated in the NASA High School Aerospace Scholars Program.
Sam was one of 1,900 students from across the country who were selected to participate in an online, interactive program centering on space exploration, Earth science, technology, mathematics, and aeronautics. During the program, Sam tackled design challenges such as 3D drawing, aced science and math quizzes, wrote technical papers, and participated in online discussions with his peers. He also had the opportunity to participate in virtual chats and webinars with NASA engineers and scientists — even one that was led by astronauts on a space mission.
Upon completion of the online course, Sam was among the top students chosen for an elite, week-long summer program at Johnson Space Center, in Houston. In late June, Sam and ten other students worked on engineering projects supporting an actual mission to Mars as directed by NASA engineers and scientists. “I researched deep-space radiation and astronaut protection on the journey to Mars,” says Sam, “and presented my recommendations on how to prevent the negative effects of deep-space radiation during the astronauts’ six-to-eight-month journey to Mars.”
Based on his use of surface-imaging software, Sam also wrote an article defending his suggested landing zone on Mars that met the requirements and goals for which NASA looked. In addition, he created his own, customized 3D tool optimized for space in order to combine the functionality of an entire toolbox into one efficient tool. During the closing ceremony, Sam was selected as an ambassador for Robert Blake, one of NASA’s top officials.
Sam says that meeting and collaborating with other students who have similar interests was a highlight. He was thrilled to meet with the engineer who was responsible for designing the alarm system on the Apollo 13 rockets that saved countless lives. “The experience was not only enlightening and challenging, but it also gave me a real glimpse of what my future will, I hope, entail,” he said.
Sam credits several Legacy teachers with equipping him for the experience: “Dr. Stone has been instrumental in my love of learning. She cares about her students, and she teaches her material in a way that makes it super engaging. Dean of Legacy’s School of Engineering, Mrs. Hermogeno, and I often talked throughout my lessons and she encouraged me not to give up. Her coursework and lessons were crucial in my being chosen for this internship.” He thanks Dustin Messer for encouraging him to ask questions: “Mr. Messer has been instrumental in my growth. He’s the kindest, most open-minded teacher I’ve encountered at Legacy. He encouraged me to pursue my own individual ideas and discover truth for myself. We would often get into deep philosophical conversations and suggest readings for each other.”
Throughout his time at Legacy, Sam has taken the most advanced math and science classes available — Pre-AP Physics, Pre-AP Engineering, Pre-AP Computer Science, and AP Computer Science — and continues to maintain a GPA above 4.0. He’s a member of the Robotics Team, for which he was a head designer on last year’s robot. As part of the essay for his application to the Aerospace Scholars Program, Sam wrote, “If I leave this world without moving the needle forward in the field of astronomy, then I will have missed out on something I truly feel called to do.” He added, “I hope to [leave my mark] on our solar system by finding answers to questions we do not even know to ask yet.”
In the fall, Sam will be a freshman at Texas A&M University, where he intends to major in aerospace engineering.
Legacy Christian Academy is Frisco's preeminent Pre-K through 12 Christian school committed to educating students in a college preparatory environment balanced in academics, athletics, and fine arts–all within the context of a biblical worldview. For more information on Legacy, visit our admissions page.