Or at least a planet.
Northeast sophomore Sturgis Baxter of Corinth has been selected for a unique experience with NASA through their National Aerospace Community College Scholars Program.
As part of the program, Baxter will attend a four-day workshop at Stennis Space Center near Hancock County where he will be working closely with NASA employees and other community college majors from various states on several team projects.
“I imagine this experience can only serve to inspire me, motivate me to study harder, and become a part of the solution for tomorrow’s problems,” Baxter said.
For acceptance into the program, Baxter first had to submit an application along with a short essay of why he desired to enter the program, provide confirmation of academic and professional references, and complete an online course after his acceptance into the program.
In a 300-word essay required on the application, Baxter wrote about his desire to use what he’s learned at Northeast and plans to later learn at a four-year university to develop, explore, and develop new venues of computing technology and how it relates to NASA’s mission of reaching Mars by 2033.
During the summer, Baxter had to submit a six-to-seven page research paper answering three-of-five questions for a final project due at the end of an online course portion required by the NCAS program.
“On that essay, I wrote about the following topics: anti-matter propulsion systems for future spacecraft, how I would personally conduct a long-term mission to Mars,” Baxter said, “and ways that antimatter could be produced on a larger scale in space using conceptualized ideas I personally developed while writing the research paper.”
Baxter initially discovered the program from Northeast division head of math and sciences Michelle Baragona, who gave him the information he needed to apply to the program. Mathematics instructor Melanie Walker encouraged him to apply.
Baxter found out he had been hand selected for an additional on-site experience at Stennis Space Center this past June while working at a summer camp in Connecticut teaching robotics and basic programming.
“I hope to learn a lot more about prospective engine designs for future spacecraft, what new technologies astronauts are using in space, and how scientists and researchers at NASA plan to develop systems for innovative propulsion resources like antimatter, hydrogen, or Solar Electric,” Baxter said.
Baxter is already looking forward to his four-day workshop in south Mississippi and being able to attend such a prestigious program in his home state.
“I’m so excited to be a Mississippi resident and have the opportunity to work together with other STEM majors throughout the United States while still being so close to home,” Baxter said. “Hopefully this will allow for me to have a bigger opportunity to come back and share what I’ve learned while I was there with kids in the local community and other students at Northeast.”
Baxter also sees a connection between his educational career at Northeast and what he will be learning during his four days at Stennis.
“The relationships I’ve developed at Northeast with both faculty and other students have impacted my life the most,” Baxter said. “At Northeast, instructors care about you and are filled with a passion for seeing students succeed. Also, Northeast’s incorporation of technology in the classroom has propelled me forward in my ability to learn, study, and has provided a sound foundation for me to continue my education at university level.”
However, being a sophomore, the student knows his time at Northeast is drawing near. But he has a plan for that as well.
“I have plans to attend either Mississippi State University or the University of Alabama to pursue a baccalaureate degree in Computer Science,” Baxter said. “After that, it is my hope I can gain acceptance to the University of Stanford, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology or Rice University to continue my exploration of the sciences and complete my graduate studies with a Masters of Computer Science coupled with an MBA.
A Ph.D. is also on Baxter’s bucket. “We will see how things move along,” he said.
Baxter’s exploration of the world around him began at an early age by him asking questions about everyday things.
“I’ve always been the person who enjoyed asking questions and understanding how things worked,” said Baxter. “My mom will tell you that I was always that kid who enjoyed pushing buttons and testing boundaries to their breaking point. I’m sure she tired of me continually asking her, ‘Why?’”
However, Baxter says this inquisitive nature is not a bad one to have.
“As long as it’s directed toward something productive,” Baxter pointed out. “I plan to use that trait to break the boundaries of today’s limitations and, alongside numerous colleagues and other students, create a way for people to live in a reality where going to Mars will be like catching a plane from the United States to China. There’s a whole universe out there to explore and I’m determined to find what’s out there.”