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Isai Uriarte Has His Head In The Clouds

Isai Uriarte

Interested in engineering?

Read one engineering major's story about his opportunity with NASA. 

Isai Uriarte was flying high in late summer. The engineering student recently returned from NASA. Uriarte was selected to attend the NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars (NCAS) Onsite Experience at Johnson Space Center. He was one of 499 community college students from across the U.S. to participate.In fact, Phoenix College is in the top 3 Arizona colleges that has the most scholars participating in NASA’s programs.

First, as part of the program, Uriarte took a 5-week course about different aspects of space travel. “The final project was a choice between three different options: I chose to do a research paper about making Mars habitable,” said the student. “Each of us had to work on the quizzes along with the final project simultaneously because of the short time period of the program. I knew it was going to be a challenge, solely because I am doing work for NASA! It was definitely a challenging summer, but I learned how to manage my time better and prioritize.” 

Uriarte is no stranger to challenging work. When he started his education at PC, he wasn’t quite sure where he belonged. He wasn’t ‘feeling it’ with his business major, so knowing he loved learning about how machines work, he took an Intro to Engineering course. That sealed the deal. “I love how engineering challenges me and allows me to think outside of the norm. At NASA, I learned about different opportunities and I networked a lot, which is important to me.” 

Ernest Villicana, an engineering expert for 35 years, sees great potential in his mentee and wasn’t surprised when Uriarte was chosen for the program, “It has been very gratifying to have been a part of his growth and maturation. He is quickly gaining confidence as his engineering skills evolve with participation in internships. He is a highly committed, young man with limitless potential. Isai is a first-generation college student who I believe has the right temperament, commitment level, discipline and attitude to earn his engineering degree.”

That support is what makes PC so appealing to many students who find themselves making career choices: It provides the opportunity to gain access to superior Freshman and Sophomore education at a fraction of the tuition cost of a major university. Students have access to modern classrooms and laboratories plus scholarship programs, internships and funded research. The classes are smaller and more comfortable for our diverse student body,” said Villicana.

After the 5-week online course, Uriarte then traveled to Johnson Space Center for a four-day onsite event. Uriarte’s whole week at the Center was busy, starting from the morning to the late evenings. The students would go to Johnson early in the morning after breakfast to take a different tour each day. Then, students would get together within their assigned groups to work on their Mars Rover prototypes for the rest of the day. “At the end of the night before going to the hotel, we would have a guest speaker to share their life stories, their journey about how they got to NASA and what they have done during their time working there.”

NASA lived up to its reputation for Uriarte, but not without some surprises. “Lots of things surprised me about the program, starting with the level of complexity with the material they gave us. Another thing that surprised me was how humble the employees at NASA were and how they welcomed my questions. They wanted the best for me, and they made sure they answered my questions to the fullest.”

Take a look at our engineering program here:

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