Choi earns spot as Aerospace Scholar

Only 160 across the state were selected for summer program

A Washougal High School junior will have the opportunity to attend a six-day summer residency program at the Museum of Flight in Seattle.

Brian Choi is one of just 160 students from across the state to earn a spot in the Washington Aerospace Scholars (WAS) Summer Residency Program from July 14-19.

Choi’s high academic performance on the WAS Phase One curriculum, an online course with quizzes, research papers and assignments, qualified him for the program.

The residency will be held at The Museum of Flight. Choi will join a team of four students to work cooperatively to plan a human mission to Mars with support from professional engineers, scientists, university students, and educators.

“The biggest challenge to supporting life on Mars is really the distance,” he said. “If they run into a problem or something needs to be fixed, there is no way to communicate with Earth quickly. They have to solve problems and manage everything themselves.”

Jason Blaesing, a WHS math teacher, was Choi’s faculty advisor. Blaesing is also a WAS online evaluator and a counselor during the summer program.

“The amount of work these kids have to do to qualify is incredible,” he said. “And this is added on to their regular high school course work which often includes Advanced Placement classes. It is just wonderful when you see all that hard work pay off for them.”

He added that the program includes representatives from several of the state’s biggest high tech firms.

“They see value in the program and take interest in these students so they can snatch them up after graduating from college,” Blaesing said. “Being a part of this program looks great on a resume and gives you that star by your name when applying to colleges and internships. It is a real honor.”

Choi expects the experience to be “fun and interesting.”

“We will be doing some amazing stuff,” he said. “I’ll have the chance to work with some very brilliant minds, both the teachers and students.”

Each session also includes briefings from aerospace professionals, tours of engineering facilities, and engineering challenges involving model rocketry, robotics, landing devices and payload lofting.

“I hope to come away with a better understanding of what it means to be an engineer,” Choi said. “This will prove to me whether or not engineering is what I want to study and have a career in.”

The WAS program is a free, competitive, science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education program for Washington state high school juniors. It is affiliated with NASA and the Johnson Space Center’s National High School Aerospace Scholars program. It includes partner programs in Texas, Virginia and Idaho.

The primary goal is to, “excite and prepare students to pursue career pathways in STEM fields using a distance learning curriculum developed in partnership with NASA and the University of Washington.”