Zachary Waller, a student at L.C. Bird High School in Chesterfield, was one of 48 rising high school seniors from across the state selected to take part in the Virginia Aerospace Science and Technology Scholars (VASTS) academy, according to a press release.
The academy was held July 10-16 at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., and was hosted by NASA Langley in a partnership with the Virginia Space Grant Consortium, the release says.
Prior to the academy, the students completed a six-month interactive distance-learning program on aerospace exploration that prepared them for their intensive week at NASA Langley, it says. During the academy, Waller built, programmed and tested robots, toured NASA labs and facilities, talked with NASA researchers, scientists and astronaut Dr. Roger Crouch, as well as gained solid workforce experience and college credit, the release says.
Waller worked on the academy’s “Living There” team, which had the primary objective of keeping the astronauts alive from the beginning to the end of the Mars mission, it says. The team’s main focus was planning for what the astronauts would need once they landed on Mars, such as a way to communicate with others back on Earth, it says.
Waller had no idea what to expect, but soon after arriving he knew that this would be a unique experience, it says.
“It’s pretty epic and amazing to be here at the academy,” Waller says in the release. “I can’t explain it, it is just awesome.”
After graduation Waller plans to attend NC State to study engineering, the release says.