Two New Jersey students have gathered at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. to participate in the prestigious Summer Institute in Engineering and Computer Applications (SIECA) program.

Piotr Czerechowski from Clifton, N.J. and Allison Chang from Edison, N.J. are working with NASA scientists and engineers for the summer.

SIECA strives to inspire interest in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields among underrepresented students by allowing them to explore various career opportunities within NASA.

Each SIECA student is assigned a NASA scientist or engineer as a mentor and assists the mentor with his or her current project. The SIECA participants help their mentors conduct research and use data for the projects, and in turn, the mentors guide the students and help them learn as much as possible from their experience at NASA Goddard.

By the end of the summer, SIECA participants will gain hands-on experience working on a project related to NASA’s goals. For example, in the summer of 2005, a SIECA student worked on developing tracking software adapters for rover prototypes. Each student should also deliver an oral presentation accompanied by a technical paper where they will share the results of their research with NASA management, personnel and fellow interns.

“This is a wonderful experience for a student,” said Dr. Vigdor Teplitz, chief of Higher Education for NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. “NASA’s space program is just about the greatest show on Earth if you are a technical person and having these young eager people with fresh points-of-view and questions is good for NASA. It makes a productive summer for all.”

The ten-week program runs from May 30 through Aug. 4.

SIECA, a minority focused program administered by Bowie State University in Maryland, provides and opportunity for students to attain course credits for their summer work. This year, the program brings together 19 students from around the country including Puerto Rico who are pursuing degrees in science, engineering, mathematics, computer science or another field of interest to the aerospace industry.

“SIECA is the Center’s oldest, continuous summer program,” said Dillard Menchan, deputy education officer for NASA Goddard. “It has also been the most successful ‘pipeline’ feeder to our permanent workforce.”

With this program, NASA continues the agency’s tradition of investing in the nation’s education programs. It is directly tied to the agency’s major educational goal of strengthening NASA’s and the nation’s future workforce. Through this and the agency’s other college and university programs, NASA will identify and develop the critical skills and capabilities needed to achieve the Vision for Space Exploration.