Emmanuel Patelidas is really blasting off at Wright College, where he’s focusing on natural sciences and ecological engineering. The 23 year old is headed to Johnson Space Center in Houston for four days as part of NASA’s Community College Aerospace Scholars (NCAS) program. Emmanuel was selected as one of 171 community college students from across the U.S. to be part of the NCAS on-site experience.

After completing a five-week online class about engineering at NASA, he was accepted into the on-site component, which involves a trip that’s completely paid for by NASA. While in Houston, Emmanuel and other students will interact with NASA engineers and others as they learn more about careers in science and engineering. He’ll work on a team to establish a fictional company 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.

Even though he’s been interested in robots, Emmanuel never imagined himself getting as close as he’ll get to it all.

In the meantime, it’s business as usual for the Chicago native, and that means classes at Wright College, where he often visits the Writing Lab, his teachers’ office hours, and his advisor. Emmanuel plans to graduate from Wright in May 2018 and transfer to a four-year institution.

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