Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Cuyamaca College student Mariah Moschetti shoots for the stars

Mariah Moschetti is reaching for the sky.

The Cuyamaca College Associated Student Government President was recently accepted into the super competitive NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars program and spent Oct. 26 to 29 studying at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

“It definitely was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, especially for someone who wants to work in the space industry,” s
Mariah Moschetti talking with an astronomer at
the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
he said. “Incredibly inspirational. I met some amazing people. And I learned so much.”

The NASA program was just the latest in a string of achievements for Moschetti since she arrived at Cuyamaca College.

“Mariah is an amazing student,” said Lauren Vaknin, Cuyamaca’s Associate Dean of Student Affairs. “She has been involved with the Associated Student Government for more than two years as an Emerging Leader, Vice President, and as the President. She has also served on numerous campus committees, such as Student Services Council, Student Services Program Review Committee, and the Cuyamaca College Council – all while maintaining a high GPA. I am constantly impressed with Mariah’s reasoning skills and how well she interfaces with students, community leaders, and campus administrators.”

The NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars program was similarly impressed.

Moschetti was one of about 50 community college students from around the country taking part in the Jet Propulsion Laboratory seminar and workshop, the focus of which was a competition among four ad-hoc teams tasked with designing models of Mars rovers from scratch that were programmed to collect rocks and retrieve a disabled rover.

Moschetti served as the project manager of a team that raised eyebrows among leading scientists with NASA: “We created a rover that was remote controlled through Bluetooth,” she said. “They had never seen that before.”

Mariah Moschetti
“I picked up a lot of leadership experience, learned plenty about design and testing,” Moschetti said. “It was just plain fun.”

Before voyaging to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Moschetti took part in a five-week online workshop, participating in discussions, live video chats with NASA experts and various mission design challenges.

Moschetti has been focused on the mysteries of space since she was a little girl growing up about 40 miles northeast of Anchorage in the Alaskan town of Palmer. “I was always a stargazer,” she said. “When I was child I’d be fascinated by the Northern Lights and I’d go to the library and check out towers of books on the planets and the galaxies.”

She has been volunteering at the El Cajon Library since moving here with her family when she was 12, doing everything from reading to small children at Story Time to stocking books and helping with adult literacy programs.

Moschetti enrolled at Cuyamaca College in fall 2013.  

“I had a friend who was going to Cuyamaca and had nothing but great things to say about the college,” Moschetti said. “It was affordable. It was close to my house. It just made sense to go here.”
Moschetti said she loves being at Cuyamaca College.

"Through my experience in student government, I've seen a lot of other colleges, and Cuyamaca stands out for a lot of reasons, including its personality," she said. "It's small, you don't get lost, the professors are really passionate and you get to know them really well, and people here are really passionate about student success. It's just a really great school."

A computer engineering student who plans to transfer to UC San Diego in fall 2016, Moschetti, 20, is on track to earn multiple associate of science degrees. She hopes to earn a dual bachelor of science degree in computer engineering and mathematics before securing a master’s degree in planetary science – all part of a strategy to make herself more marketable for an employer such as NASA.

“There is nothing in that field of work that I wouldn’t want to do,” she said.

No one who knows her doubts that she’ll get there.

Mariah is very dedicated to her work,” said Corrine Hensley, a Tutoring Center Specialist at the Cuyamaca College STEM Achievement Center where Moschetti works. “Mariah has a maturity and insight that is beyond her years and approaches new challenges with enthusiasm.  She is involved with so many different projects and activities at Cuyamaca College but is able to manage her obligations with fairness and balance which is difficult for many students to do.  I think there is a very bright and exciting future in store for her.”