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Degree or certificate program at CLC: A.E.S.

Major: Future aerospace engineering major.

Transfer school, degree and year: Undecided; leaning toward the University of Illinois. 

Hometown: Born in Chicago; grew up in Buffalo Grove.

High school: Stevenson High School, 2016 graduate.

Interests and hobbies: Tutoring students; watching YouTube videos on current events or new technology.

Paul Kim

As a kid, I dreamed big about space travel and technology, and I was fascinated with NASA. Thanks to CLC, I had an unforgettable experience in NASA’s 2017 Community College Aerospace Scholars program. A CLC engineering professor encouraged me to apply, and the process involved about 20 hours of online modules and my own project. I submitted a proposal to send a probe to Mars, exploring how the magnetic field surrounding the planet has changed over time and why it’s weaker than Earth’s magnetic field. When I found out that was one of 350 students to be chosen as an Aerospace Scholar, I was shocked and delighted.

In the four-day visit to NASA’s John Glenn Research Center near Cleveland, which took place in April, I was on a team with 10 other students from around the country. We competed with three other teams on a design project for exploring the surface of Mars. Each team acted as its own company that pitched its idea to NASA engineers. Our team decided to design and build a 21st century rover that can obtain rock samples. We acted like a company, with a budget and different assignments such as project manager, lead engineer and programmer. My role was to build the rover using Lego Mindstorm® pieces, based on what the designers in our group created using the EV3 software.

Like the real world, we had to meet a deadline, work as a team, deal with conflict and manage costs. Our team got along very well, and it was great to make new friends and meet some awesome scientists. Our team had two mentors who were engineers working on improving airplane fuel efficiency through improved aerodynamics of airplanes. The overall experience is something I’ll never forget.

Here at CLC, I really appreciate Jan Edwards, the CLC engineering professor who introduced me to the NASA opportunity. She really likes to teach, cares about students and has a sense of humor.  She has worked as a materials engineer and brings that real-world experience into the classroom. In an introductory engineering class, she brought in guest speakers ranging from civil engineers to computer programmers to biomedical engineers. 

Jeff Mudrock is another great CLC professor who has taught three of my calculus classes. He’s the first math teacher I’ve seen who has actually shouted happily in the classroom how much he loves math, and he relates concepts to real-world applications such as programming. He teaches students more than what we need to know to pass a test. He asks us what we think, how we would solve a math problem, and he offers help outside of class, too.

Besides the classes, CLC’s math and English tutors have been helpful, too. Students should not be shy about asking for help. That’s why tutors are here.

CLC’s One Million Degrees scholarship really helped me finance my education. Without the scholarship, I would have to work a lot more hours and spend less time taking care of family needs.

I really like CLC a lot. As taxes and tuition keep rising, more and more students are starting out at a community college rather than a four-year school. A couple of my friends from high school are now attending Ivy League schools and are paying $60,000 a year in tuition. It’s awesome to take the same classes at CLC and save so much money. You have to look for opportunities to save money now, so later on, you can focus on your career rather than paying off an enormous debt.

I’d love to work for NASA someday as an aerospace engineer. Or I’d like to be an innovator like Elon Musk, the inventor and business magnate who’s the CEO of SpaceX, product architect of the Tesla electric car and founder of the company that later became PayPal.