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SpaceTEC Awards: 'We are Looking at the Future of Aerospace'
By: Denise Lineberry

On Friday, 10 Cooperative (Co-op) Education Program students and one Science and Technology Corp. employee (STC) received the only nationally recognized certification available for aerospace technicians through SpaceTEC.

Co-op graduates, mentors and speakers at SpaceTEC ceremony.
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Co-op education program graduates, mentors and speakers at the SpaceTEC Awards Ceremony, which was held at NASA Langley's Pearl Young Theatre on June 10. Credit: NASA/George Homich

Stu Harris, Alvin Schexnider and Al Koller at the SpaceTEC ceremony.
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From left to right: Stu Harris, Langley's Co-op Program director, Alvin Schexnider, President of Thomas Nelson Community College and Al Koller, SpaceTEC managing director. Credit: NASA/George Homich

Space Shuttle Challenge Coin.
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Al Koller, SpaceTEC's managing director, gave a Space Shuttle Challenge Coin to each student and mentor at the SpaceTEC Awards Ceremony. The coins were designed by his father and there are only 200 in the world. Credit: NASA/George Homich

At NASA's Langley Research Center's Pearl Young Theatre, they were congratulated for maintaining Langley's 100 percent pass rate for the SpaceTEC exam, which has a national pass rate of less than 35 percent.

Only 392 people have received this certification.

Each of the recent co-op program graduates completed their undergraduate studies at Thomas Nelson Community College (TNCC). They alternated periods of full-time study and full-time work.

At Langley, they rotated through 15 assignments in 23 facilities and 18 technical areas. Their work was performed under the supervision of more than 50 mentors within the wind tunnels or research laboratories using state-of-the-art test computer studies or simulation.

"This is the kind of vision that will ensure that NASA and the country has a high-tech, elite future," said Lesa Roe, NASA Langley’s center director.

Stu Harris, Langley's co-op program director, recognized the collaborations of TNCC, NASA Langley and SpaceTEC and, also, student support from friends and family. Ceremony guests included directors, department chairs and other section leads from Old Dominion University, the Governor's Academy for Innovation, Technology and Engineering (GAiTE), STC and the Virginia Space Grant Consortium. Each has contributed to a growing aerospace technician pipeline.

"It takes a village to make this work," Harris said.

Since 2009, its success has shown that the efforts of those involved are paying off. In addition to a perfect pass rate, each student has passed all six sections of the written, computer-based portion of the SpaceTEC exam, of which only four need to be passed to be certified.

The three-part SpaceTEC exam consists a pretest, a written and an oral and finally, a practical exam. Some topics include aerospace processing, aerospace electrical and space vehicle maintenance.

"I can't tell you how proud Thomas Nelson Community College is to be a part of a very exciting, innovative and most productive program," said Alvin Schexnider, TNCC President.

Al Koller, SpaceTEC's managing director, was the keynote speaker at the event. He began his own aerospace career in 1959. "You get a chance to go into the labs and the shops and you receive the academic foundation," Koller said.

With him, Koller brought a Space Shuttle Mission challenge coin for each student and each mentor. According to Koller, challenge coins were originally given to military personnel who fought on a battlefield, specifically when the uniforms made it difficult to tell friend from foe.

"These coins are special to me. They were designed by my father, Al, Sr.," Koller said. "There are only 200 in the world."

Koller summed up the student experience in three parts: teaching us how to learn, uncovering new knowledge and then serving others by disseminating information.

"That’s really what it is all about -- passing it on," Koller said.

And it's also about building for the future.

"We are looking at the future of aerospace," Koller said, turning his eyes towards the 10 graduates and Jonny Callahan, the first STC technician to receive this certification.

The following co-op graduates received SpaceTEC certification:
Stacy L. Arndt
Seth J. Everett
Jeremy W. Kuykendoll
Robert F. Martin
David A. McLain
Timothy J. Mitchell
David W. Palmer
Christopher R. Savage
John R. Savage
Vincent J. Smith

The following STC employee received SpaceTEC certification:
Jonny Callahan


NASA Langley Student Programs:


Thomas Nelson Community College:

The Researcher News
NASA Langley Research Center
Editor & Curator: Denise Lineberry
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