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It’s not every day that a student from Hawaiʻi has the opportunity to learn from NASA engineers and programmers, but for Honolulu Community College student Jasmine Hoapili, that dream came true. During the first week of December 2014 she had the honor of participating in the National Community College Aerospace Scholars program organized by NASA.

“I became an instant rock star as the only student out of 28 from Hawaiʻi,” shares Hoapili. “Participating in the program opened my eyes and changed my perception of work that NASA does for our country.”

Once accepted into the program, Hoapili participated in an intense online course for five weeks in preparation for her onsite experience at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. During her experience, the students were split up into four groups of nine individuals working in a team environment to plan a mission to Mars.

“We all had to select a job we had to fulfill on our team. I was the programmer in which my job was to write a program that would instruct the robot to collect samples on Mars,” Hoapili explained.

The Computing, Electronics, Networking Technology (CENT) major had to meet certain criteria to be considered for the program, which included being a registered community college student for either the summer and fall semesters, have at least a cumulative of 9 hours in a STEM discipline and committing 12 to 14 weeks working with NASA.

Hoapili with her NASA teammates

Hoapili with her NASA teammates

One of Hoapili’s English instructors had this to say about her: “She is a problem solver who is not afraid of trying. I wasn’t surprised when Jasmine told me she was selected for NASA’s program. Her determination and willingness to work hard and take risks earned her this opportunity. She is a great role model for Honolulu CC students.”

In addition to being a NASA Scholar, she is an active member of the Team Hawaiʻi Robotics Club based at Honolulu CC and has competed in the Nagoya Micro Robot Maze Competition. She is an ʻIKE Scholar, a University of Hawaiʻi Pre-Engineering Education Collaborative supporting Hawaiian students interested in a career path in engineering, and she also completed an internship with the Akamai Workforce Initiative at the Institute for Astronomy in Kula, Maui.

“I am so grateful to Team Hawaiʻi Robotics advisor Mr. Norman Takeya and Ms. Tasha Kawamata Ryan with the ʻIKE Scholars program for encouraging me to apply for this opportunity!”

Hoapili plans on continuing her education in the field of mechanical engineering.