Three students to visit and compete at NASA site

Santa Fe Community College students Rebecca Friedberg, Michael Frey and Matthew Tsoodle will  attend the NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars (NCAS) Onsite Experience at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi March 2-6, 2020.

The three were selected participants out of 524 community college students from across the U.S. to be part of NCAS. Friedberg, Frey and Tsoodle successfully completed a five-week online course, which lead to a visit to a NASA center.

All three students are older, nontraditional students who said they are grateful to have this opportunity.

Rebecca Friedberg

Friedberg, 58, has been studying for associate degree in  Excercise Science. “I love the college. I’ve gotten so many opportunities and I’ve been particularly motivated by Dr. Jason Beam,” she said.

Friedberg, who was a competitive long-distance athlete also had experience working as a contractor for NASA years ago.

Friedberg likes the interdisciplinary approach of the NCAS program. The students come from a wide-range of educational backgrounds to form teams. “I learned about the NCAS program from information on one of the digital screens on campus and thought I’d apply. It’s exciting to be a part of something like this and to know that NASA is open to having students of all ages.”

Michael Frey

Frey, 30, was a long-time bar and restaurant manager. He came to SFCC looking to develop new career skills. “I’ve been drawn to engineering and I am taking classes both at SFCC and the University of New Mexico,” he said.

“Almost a decade ago, I took classes at Texas Tech and I can tell you that SFCC’s math teachers are as good or better than the ones I had there. Tracy Roberts is a fantastic teacher and she encouraged me to become a math tutor here,” he said. He also had a PILAS internship through the college at the National Center for Genome Resources where he was able to use his computer skills.

He was encouraged to apply to NCAS by Sara Lanctot, another math tutor and engineering student, who was a NCAS scholar last year.

Frey and Lanctot co-founded SFCC’s Robotics Club last year and he’s currently working as a mentor with high school students who are building a robot on SFCC’s campus for First Robotics Competition.

Matthew Tsoodle

Tsoodle, 33, is studying for an associate degree in Engineering Technology. He heard Sara Lanctot give a presentation about her experience in the NCAS program last year and decided to apply.

Tsoodle, who had studied sculpture at IAIA, was interested in architecture when he came to SFCC. He said, “Jeremy Mier, who was my instructor in architecture, encouraged me to apply for a position at an engineering firm. I’ve been working at Lucchini-Trujillo Engineers since then.” He works part-time and he is now studying in the Engineering Technologies progam.

“Getting accepted into the NCAS program has really boosted my confidence,” Tsoodle said. “I’ve never really had much confidence in myself, so It was an accomplishment to finish the online project and get accepted. I’m also grateful to engineering instructor Miguel Maestas who continues to encourage me.”

NCAS onsite visit

The five-week online activity culminates with a four-day onsite event at a NASA center which offers students the opportunity to learn more about careers in science and engineering. While at NASA, students form teams and establish fictional companies interested in Mars exploration. Each team is responsible for developing and testing a prototype rover, forming a company infrastructure, managing a budget, and developing communications and outreach.

The event includes briefings by NASA subject matter experts, information on how to apply for NASA internships, and a tour of NASA’s unique facilities.

The Minority University Research and Education Program, or MUREP funds NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars. MUREP is committed to engaging underrepresented and underserved students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) with authentic learning experiences to sustain a diverse workforce.

With this activity, NASA continues the agency’s tradition of engaging the nation in NASA’s mission and leading an innovative and sustainable program of exploration to enable human expansion across the solar system and to bring back to Earth new knowledge and opportunities.

“NCAS not only inspires community college students to advance in STEM fields, but it also opens doors for future careers at NASA. NCAS alumni often move on to NASA internships and ultimately enter the NASA workforce. It is rewarding to see the progression of a student from NCAS participant to NASA colleague,” says Torry Johnson, Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP) Manager.

For additional information, please contact National Community College Aerospace Scholars by email at or by phone at 281-244-0104. For more information, visit:

For more on MUREP visit:

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