VASBA 2020 Scholarship Recipients

Meet some of our VASBA Scholarship recipients! Learn more about their paths of study, connections to the community and next steps towards their future in STEM.

Desiree Ahrens

Desiree is a student at Thomas Nelson Community College and writes:
"I would like to take this time to thank you for seeing something special in me to award me with the Virginia Aerospace Business Association scholarship. This is truly a great honor and it is always wonderful to feel the acknowledgement of work well done. With your support I can focus on my upcoming classes more with less financial burden blocking my progress."

Cadence Soyka

Cadence is a student at Thomas Nelson Community College and writes:
"Dear generous VASBA donors, I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the Virginia Aerospace Business Association scholarship. Your charitable donations help to save the futures and soften the burdens of plenty of students. Being a Mechanical Engineering major, I plan to pursue a career working at JLAB or on one of NASA's plethora of scholarships. I also plan to design some of my own projects and partnerships in the future with my father who's also a mechanical engineer. I'm planning on graduating from Thomas Nelson Community College with my Associate's this May, and transferring to GMU near our nation's capital, to earn my Bachelor's."

Kristin Carey

Kristin is a student at Old Dominion Batten School of Engineering and writes:
"From West Point, Virginia, Kristin is a full-time Mechanical Engineering Student. She is studying mechanical engineering with a concentration in Aerospace Engineering. She is currently the Project Manager for the ThinSat Senior Design project at Old Dominion University, which was proudly showcased at the 2019 Virginia Aerospace Legislative Reception. She is currently working to make alterations to the locking mechanisms of the ThinSat in hopes of turning this experiment into a research platform for Hypersonic flight. Kristen also holds an Associate from Rappahannock Community College through Dual Enrollment classes while she was a student at West Point High School."

Alex Charles

Alex is a student at Virginia State University and writes:
"My name is Alex Charles and I currently am a sophomore at the illustrious Virginia State University. I am majoring in Computer Science and have GPA of 3.44. I am a member of the students' NSBE chapter. During the 2020 BEYA STEM annual conference, I participated in the AMIE (Advancing Minority Interest in Engineering) design challenge hosted by a consortium of industries that include IBM, Microsoft, Boing, Lockheed Martin, Boston Scientific, and others. I work full time as a software engineer for a government contracted agency, Leidos. I also work as a full time 911 dispatcher for Dinwiddie County along with working part time as staff for VSU's IT management team. I am also a Navy Veteran and worked with missile and radar systems. In my free time I study cyber security and working to obtain my CEH, Certified Ethical Hacker Certification, and other certifications. I do mentor my hometowns Kappa league, a group designated to helping young minority males become their greater selves in a society determined not too. The league was created by the fraternity Kappa Alpha Psi and I help in funding for college, college tours, and other personal needs each young man may need in their journey. This scholarship will mean the world to me because it will lighten the load of paying for school as well as set an example for the many people that look up to me that there is a way to achieve your goals through hard work and a proper education."

Curtrell Trott

Curtrell is a student at Virginia State University and writes:
"My name is Curtrell Trott. I am a freshman and attending Virginia State University to earn my bachelor's in Computer Science. My endless fascination with computers daily drives me to work hard towards my major. I plan to harness their potential to make our lives more convenient and productive. I am an aggressive learner inside and outside of the classroom. I embrace any opportunity possible to acquire a deeper understanding both socially and academically. For example, to prepare for landing a job in my dream career I chose to attend the interview preparation program on campus. It is important to me to help others by volunteering assistance to who may struggle with a subject I am well versed in. In addition to learning, I enjoy participating in group projects to improve my skills as a team player. Recently I participated in the AMIE (Advancing Minority Interest in Engineering) Design Challenge competition that was held during the 2020 BEYA STEM annual conference in Washington, DC. The competition was organized and sponsored by a consortium of industries including Boeing, Lockheed Martin, IBM, Boston Scientific, Microsoft, Oracle, and others. Most of my hobbies involve tasks that challenge creativity. This may include creating art pieces for clients or utility programs that aid increase my productivity. This scholarship will be a key to the door of opportunity for me. It will help me focus on my academic achievements and give me an even greater sense of independence. I would like to express my gratitude for this opportunity."

Austin Taylor

Austin is a student at Eastern Shore Community College and writes:
"Thank you for supporting me in my education at Eastern Shore Community College for the Spring 2020 Semester. I am currently studying Electronics Technology. My goal is to graduate from Eastern Shore Community College with an associate in Electronics Technology. The money that I received helped me with my tuition payments and will help me reach my goal of graduating. I have interned at NASA during the 2019 summer for 10 weeks. My future goal after graduation is to hopefully be able to work full time at NASA. Thank you for helping me get one step closer to reaching my goals."

Katie Moncure

Katie is a student at Virginia Tech and writes:
"Three years ago, I had the absolute pleasure of attending the Virginia Aerospace Science and Technology Scholars (VASTS) summer academy at NASA Langley Research Center. VASTS opened my eyes to not only my own potential as an engineer but to the plethora of opportunities to be found in the aerospace industry in the Commonwealth of Virginia. And, it just so happens that VASTS was only made possible by a partnership between NASA Langley Research Center and the Virginia Space Grant Consortium - a member of VASBA! So, scholarship or not, it seems I already have a lot to thank VASBA for!
Since then, my passion for aerospace engineering hasn't wavered once! Last year, some friends and I founded SWASE, the Society of Women in Aviation and Space Exploration, a professional development organization at Virginia Tech targeted towards young women interested in pursuing careers in the aerospace industry. Some months we cover career fair prep, other months we bring in guest speakers, and sometimes we just socialize and offer advice and support to other young women! I'm also Vice President of the Lightsaber Club at Virginia Tech, a club dedicated to designing and building high quality prop lightsabers from the Star Wars franchise completely from scratch, including custom sound fonts, lighting, and hilts. I've also just begun undergraduate aerospace research with Dr. Pat Artis and will soon begin working on my own rocket!
To help pay for my education and give back to the community, I work two jobs. I'm a resident advisor (RA) for the Hypatia engineering community in Lee Hall, where I create events to build community within the hall and provide mentorship for young women in the community. I also work at the Frith Freshman Engineering Design Lab, where I teach students how to safely use equipment including laser cutters, CNCs, soldering irons, and assorted power tools for both personal and school-related projects."

Nicolas Jones

Nicolas is a student at Virginia Tech and writes:
"My primary objective while studying aerospace engineering at Virginia Tech is to go above and beyond, to excel and push myself further to help prepare myself for all the different paths my future might take on my way to my goal. It is my ambition to place myself at the forefront of exploration and opportunity by pursuing a career in aerospace engineering, with an eye towards enabling the next age of human space exploration. I have committed myself to achievement inside and outside the classroom, both on my own and with my peers and community in order to take advantage of any opportunity so that I can accomplish this goal.
As a student, I have made every attempt to maximize my learning while in college. In addition to making the Dean's list every semester so far in my undergraduate degree, I have elected to pursue astronomy, computer science, and mathematics minors. I believe that pursuing these additional programs will allow me to gain and utilize complimentary skills and knowledge I can apply to problems in my prospective field. This broad educational background already aided me when I worked as an undergraduate teaching assistant for the Foundations of Engineering course, where I helped students to learn, understand, and debug MATLAB code. I was able to directly utilize knowledge from my computer science classes to better explain to the students the fundamentals of their problems. As a part of my degree, I plan to focus heavily in the space engineering track, allowing me to gain the in-depth knowledge and skills necessary to bring my broader skills to bear on the challenges I am passionate about overcoming.
In addition to my progress inside the classroom, I have made great strides outside the classroom as well. As the electrical team lead for Virginia Tech's RockSat-X undergraduate design team, I have had the opportunity to learn not only technical skills, but also those of leadership. As an engineer on the team, I have focused on producing robust, affordable, and manufacturable solar panel designs for the team's solar array deployer experiment, allowing me to build confidence in my abilities as well as take on challenges outside my academic comfort zone. As a leader on the team, I have been able to better understand how to best communicate, collaborate, and appreciate the hard work of my fellow teammates. I have been able to help guide our team through the design review process as we prepare for flight, providing feedback and support along the way. I have also been able to gain greatly from my teammates' input as well, through implementing suggestions and feedback to make a strong, enduring team capable of rising to any challenge.
RockSat was not the only place where I was able to dedicate my time to improving myself and fellow engineers. During my time as a professional development committee member in the Galileo Engineering Living Learning Community, I was able to work to improve a larger community of engineers at Virginia Tech by hosting multiple events designed to provide freshman engineers with the skills they need to succeed. The events I hosted focused on networking, writing resumes, gaining hands on experience in building drones, among other topics. As someone who had been in the community during my own freshman year, I enjoyed having the opportunity to give back to something that I had the privilege of experiencing, to mentor where I once was mentored.
In addition to the above, this semester I am once again pushing myself with my first foray into undergraduate research, working on modelling and simulation of the Earth's magnetic field for small satellite attitude control systems. I am also taking part in the NASA L'SPACE Mission Concept Academy, where I hope to gain critical experience in mission planning and administration.
When I learned of the opportunity to apply to the Virginia Aerospace Business Association scholarship, I was ecstatic. I see this not only as an opportunity to lower the financial cost of attending college and gain recognition for my hard work, but more importantly as a means of relieving some of the burden my parents have taken up in supporting me throughout my time at Virginia Tech. An undeniable aspect of my efforts during college has been to work part time through being an undergraduate teaching assistant and now through undergraduate research. While both of these opportunities have yielded or will yield valuable experiences, they also allow me to pay my own way for textbooks, groceries, utility bills, among other necessities for a college student. In much the same way, this scholarship is not just an opportunity for me to receive recognition from VASBA for the hard work and effort I have put into my education, but also to make the lives of those most important to me a little easier by allowing me to afford textbooks and the cost of tuition."