GREENBURGH, N.Y. - Chosen as one of just 47 students nationwide, Woodlands High School senior Carly Mannino spent two memorable weeks at NASA this summer in a life-changing experience.
Mannino, whose father is an engineer, joined the group of young women in a specialized training program at NASA for high school girls interested in engineering.
"My father is a civil engineer, and his line of work has always intrigued me," she said. "I have always been amazed by the beauty and stability that buildings and bridges withhold. However, the daily headlines about the Mars Rover, and President Obama's promise to put a man on Mars, peaked my interest in aerospace and aeronautics."
A science teacher gave her an application for the program. She applied and made the first cut as one of 500 female students across the United States to be accepted. After four months of completing an online program, Carly was chosen as one of the 47 students accepted to the program and the only student from New York.
During the intense two-week summer program, Mannino was introduced to astronauts and worked in labs using specialized equipment. In addition, she got an exclusive tour at the space center to see how aircraft are designed. She even got a peek to see the plans for the Apollo missions.
"The cultured and accepting atmosphere interested me the most," she said. "One would think that because NASA is a top-secret government organization, the employees would be strict and serious. But in fact they're fun, intelligent and motivational. Additionally, they don't just come from the nation's best ranked universities, they come from the Ivy leagues and state schools alike, colleges all across the nation."
Going from a classroom to the NASA center was a big change, Mannino said.
"It was not the experience anyone can get from a typical classroom, she said. "Being in the same room with girls that range from Hawaii to Alaska was an unbelievable experience.”
Another highlight was talking about Mars and learning about the government’s plan to one day travel there. Mannino believes that many Americans do not know how important the NASA programs are and hopes budget cuts do not limit the agency's work.
"(Americans) fail to realize that NASA has invented so many inventions that we use on a daily basis, from Temperpedic mattresses to the Internet," Mannino said. "NASA wouldn't want to send men to Mars were there not a list of potential benefits. Mars may be home to valuable minerals and rocks that can be mined for their value and are scarce back home. We shouldn't cut a program which will continue to push education boundaries for years to come."
In addition to her trip to NASA, Carly received a scholarship from NASA to continue her dream of becoming an engineer.