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Student engineers RockOn with NASA

The excitement is building for Tidewater Community College Engineering students who are now legitimate rocket scientists.

As participants in the NASA RockOn! program they will watch their science projects launch into space on June 23.

TCC RockOn! teams (from left to right and top to bottom) Joshua Hayes, Jacob Ramirez, Clarence Harper, Andre Ledger, Jacob Hayes, Delaney Theilman, Rebecca Pflug, Phillip Le, Nina Vahadi and Brian Ayers. Not shown are Danny Benson, Aileen Sanchez and Julie Wycoff, and faculty advisor Professor Michael Pastor.

The RockOn! program is designed for students to learn and apply skills in building experiments for suborbital space flight. Student teams from across the nation participate in the program.

TCC’s student teams are from the Engineering Club on the Virginia Beach Campus and STEM Club on Chesapeake Campus. A total of thirteen students spent weekends and after-school hours working on science payloads for a suborbital rocket out of Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

Team leader Nina Vahadi plans a career in mechanical and aerospace engineering. She is an engineering aide at Lockheed Martin this summer.

Led by student Nina Vahadi, TCC’s projects were funded by the Colorado Space Grant Consortium and the college. Specialized support was provided by faculty advisor Michael Pastor, an Engineering professor at the Virginia Beach Campus.

“We built kits 34 and 36, science payloads that will measure a lot of things in space. We’ve literally been doing rocket science at a community college,” Vahadi said.

Students received the kits and then built the payloads as a sort of competition between the two teams. “We received a box of parts and through Zoom meetings and clinics with NASA, we worked as teams to complete our payloads,” Vahadi said. “My favorite part of the project was the teamwork and seeing the project through to the end.”

The payloads will measure acceleration, humidity, pressure, temperature and radiation counts.

One of the completed payloads.

Engineering student and Navy veteran Brian Ayers enjoyed the project and found it to be a good career builder. “This has been a fantastic opportunity to gain hands-on experience. I learned to solder and code and gained new skills,” he said.

Delaney Theilman with Jacob Ramirez and Jacob Hayes in the Engineering lab at the Virginia Beach Campus.

Phillip Le, a Mechanical Engineering Technology student added, “The pandemic kept us from doing projects together and with this program, we got to know each other and use each other’s strengths to complete a project. This has been a rewarding experience.”

Participants in RockOn! receive instruction on the basics required to develop scientific payloads for flight on a suborbital rocket. After learning the basics in RockOn! students may then participate in RockSat-C, where during the school year they design and build a more complicated experiment.

“It’s been really exciting working on a project that will launch into space,” added Rebecca Rflug who hopes to one day be an aeronautical engineer.

Delaney Theilman, a Navy spouse with her sights set on a career in computer and electrical engineering, added, “I liked the electrical components and applying what I’m learning in class. I also enjoy robotics, coding and the circuitry of engineering.”

Vahadi sent a shout-out to Theilman and the rest of the team and said, “We ran into problems and worked together to figure things out. One big win was when Delaney fixed a problem with the shield board. The project stalled until that happened.”

Nine team members traveled to the Wallops Flight Facility to watch the launch on June 23.

If you would like to become a rocket scientist at TCC, contact our Virtual Student Support Team at 757-822-1111.

“College was hard sometimes, but I was fully supported as a student. What could be better?” — Katherine Guevara, TCC graduate

Katherine Louise Guevara has lived in the United States for just three years. In that time, she has adjusted to a new culture and earned a college degree.

“My goal is always to set a good example for my sisters and to take every opportunity and run with it,” she said.

Katherine is one of Tidewater Community College’s May graduates, earning an Associate of Science in Business Administration. She was also honored with TCC’s Community Engagement Award for community service and academic excellence.

Katherine grew up in the Philippines and emigrated to the United States with her mom and two sisters in June 2019.

She came to TCC at the urging of her family and found a place to thrive.

“We faced many challenges with the pandemic, but we made it. I hope my classmates remember that commencement is not the end. It’s the beginning of the next steps on our journey,” Katherine said.

Katherine got involved in college life as president of the Intercultural Club, a group that works to build a community among international students. “I made so many friends right away at TCC,” she said. “And learning about other cultures, and sharing our stories was one of my favorite things.”

Katherine was also a member of the Student Government Association and volunteered at TCC events and for campus service projects.

“I used my chance at TCC to build myself up, to join clubs and meet people,” Katherine said. “I feel like I’m a different person now as I’m more outgoing and interested in experiencing everything.”

Katherine holds a 3.8 GPA and is also a member of Phi Theta Kappa, the honor society for two-year schools.

She credits her professors with creating a dynamic learning environment and investing in her success. She sends a shout-out to Leah Flax, Thomas Geary, Ferdinand Hallare, Angela Slaughter, Rebecca Summers and Nancy Whitfield. In addition, she recognizes staffers Alicia Peoples for helping with the Intercultural Club and Emily Hartman for nominating her for the Community Engagement Award and Student Speaker.

While at TCC, Katherine worked for the Sheraton hotel in Virginia Beach and solidified her plans to work in hospitality management. She is transferring to Old Dominion University where she will study Tourism Management.

Katherine is proud to say that TCC is a family thing now. Her sister, Roshan, 18, is a TCC STEM Promise Scholar. She will pay nothing for tuition and fees when she starts at TCC in the fall. And her youngest sister, Jasmine, 17, will be taking classes in the Advanced Technology Center while still in high school. Lastly, Katherine’s stepdad, Robert Bent, will be teaching Electrical Technology at the college’s Chesapeake Campus in the fall.

In her free time, Katherine enjoys making TikTok dance videos, listening to music and spending time with family.

“All of this is really unbelievable. I’m in a new country and making progress on so many goals,” Katherine said. “College was hard sometimes, but I was fully supported as a student. What could be better than that?”