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Roane State students awarded NASA scholarships; Students encouraged to apply for summer scholarships

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Roane State Community College

Roane State Community College student Jeffrey Burks earned his GED six months before he started college. He’s on his way to a mechanical engineering degree.

A typical workday for Blake Stewart lasts 15 hours — job in the morning, classes at night.

Corey Stafford works to pay for school. Any help with costs, he said, is a relief.

Burks, Stewart and Stafford are all receiving extra financial assistance with their college education. They are the first recipients of $1,250 NASA scholarships awarded to Roane State students pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) fields. 

NASA provided funding for the scholarships through a $499,689 grant it awarded to the Tennessee Community College Space Grant Consortium. Roane State, Cleveland State Community College, Columbia State Community College, Northeast State Community College and Pellissippi State Community College are part of the consortium.

Burks of Oak Ridge plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at Tennessee Tech. He said Roane State’s small class sizes were a perfect fit for him, and he appreciates the extra help he receives from instructors such as Phillip Hyun, assistant professor of physics.

“He is really hands-on with us,” Burks said. “You can go to his office right after class to ask questions.”

Stewart of Clinton is a student in the college’s one-year mechatronics program. The mechatronics program trains students to become technicians who operate, maintain and repair high-tech automated manufacturing systems. The college will begin offering a two-year degree in mechatronics at the college’s Clinton Higher Education and Workforce Training Facility this fall.

As part of the Roane State program, Stewart interns with automotive parts manufacturer Aisin.

“I feel like robots are the future,” Stewart said. “It’s just amazing, especially to get my hands on it at such a young age.”

Four days a week, Stewart interns from 6:30 a.m.-4 p.m. and then takes classes from 5-9 p.m.

“It’s part of life, it’s growing up,” Stewart said of his long days. “You aren’t going to get anywhere in life without an education.”

Stafford of Harriman is a pre-engineering major who plans to transfer to Tennessee Tech. Receiving the NASA scholarship, he said, will help with expenses not covered by grants.

“It helps a lot with books,” he said. “The scholarship relieves a lot of stress.”

NASA scholarships are available for students in STEM majors taking courses this summer or fall. 

Roane State is offering a sequence of pre-engineering classes at its Oak Ridge campus beginning  this summer. Students who want to take advantage of this program are particularly encouraged to apply for NASA scholarships.