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UTEP and NASA coming together to start a new chapter

Photo courtesy of UTEP Press Releases
On June 1, at a joint ribbon-cutting ceremony in Houston and El Paso, NASA and UTEP announced the beginning of a Digital Engineering Design Center (DEDC) at Johnson Space Center.

NASA has opened its doors for UTEP to have a home at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. June 1 , marked a historic joint ribbon-cutting ceremony in Houston and El Paso, where the pair announced the beginning of a Digital Engineering Design Center (DEDC) at the Johnson Space Center.    

This facility will be run by UTEP staff and students alongside NASA officials, offering advanced and engaging experiences which will allow students to work in an environment focusing on creating NASA missions and developing new technologies. 

In a UTEP press release about the event, UTEP President Heather Wilson considers this new outpost a better opportunity for students and employers to build strong relationships and develop new talent.

“It gives students real-world experiences and connects beyond the classroom; it opens the door to careers and opportunities they have dreamed of and helps employers engage young professionals to prepare the next generation of talent,” Wilson said.  

Filled with pride, President Heather Wilson later went on to discuss the upcoming engineering center and how UTEP and NASA will work together to create an environment that pioneers cutting-edge technology while training bright students for the future.

“While we meet the needs of employers in our region, I look forward to learning from and potentially expanding this on-site training and education model,” Wilson said. “We will work in creative ways with all kinds of employers, those going to the moon and those closer to home, to meet their needs and prepare the next generation for the jobs of the 21st century.” 

UTEP mechanical engineering student Iram Hernandez worked at Johnson Space Center as an intern in 2022. During the press event, he recalled his experience as what motivated him to become a scientist. 

“This opportunity opened my eyes and pushed me to become a scientist, worthy of working alongside people who aim for the stars,” Hernandez said. “This experience has given me hope towards being able to pursue and achieve my career goals.” 

However, in addition to training students UTEP Aerospace Center engineers will be allowed to train two NASA engineers as the agency seeks to push the program and its students.   

A beginning of a new era, the facility will be led by UTEP Associate Vice President of Aerospace Center Ahsan Choudhuri and Afroza Shirin, two professors who have worked endlessly to improve the Aerospace Center program at UTEP since 2001.  

“Our partnership with JSC (Johnson Space Center) is long and enduring. In 2009, when we first received the NASA Miro grant to establish the center, there was one believer in our class, the Johnson Space Center,” Choudhuri said. “Over the last decade, we worked like a team to provide technology solutions but recruit and train students.” 

Starting in a small lab with three students to teach, Choudhuri is hopeful this new opportunity will open doors for many students who aspire to work at NASA and show the space industry UTEP can transform the nature of engineering. 

“We are grateful for this opportunity to work with NASA and the Johnson Space Center and that the space industry is recognizing our ability to transform the nature of engineering,” Choudhuri said. “Broadening the pool of people entering the workforce, we are excited to see the rapid growth of the Aerospace Center into the major organization it is today.” 

Erik Acosta is the web and copy editor and may be reached at [email protected].edu 

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About the Contributor
Erik Acosta
Erik Acosta, Editor-in-Chief
Erik Acosta is the editor-in-chief for The Prospector. He is a senior majoring in multimedia journalism with a minor in theatre. He plans to pursue a career in broadcast journalism and print with hopes of working at LA times, Washington Post and ABC News.
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UTEP and NASA coming together to start a new chapter