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Tim Schutte Returns to Johnson Space Center as a Student Assistant for the NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars Program

Posted November 10, 2017


Tim Schutte returns to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. Tim and a fellow student assistant with Jerry Woodfill, Apollo 13 Spacecraft Warning System Engineer and motivational speaker, who has worked for NASA for over 50 years. A view of the Johnson Space Center Mission Control center. Tim (second from right in first row) attends a lecture at the Johnson Space Center Tim (back row, second from right) and other members of the Gold Team last May at the NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars onsite workshop at Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Tim Schutte barely settled into his second year at PCCC, when NASA called with an offer he couldn’t refuse: To serve as a paid student assistant for two weeks at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

“I was really surprised,” said Tim. He quickly accepted the offer, arranged with his professors to be excused from classes for two weeks, and headed to Houston for two weeks last October. 

It was a homecoming for the West Milford resident. “I felt really at home after being there last spring,” said Tim who had attended an onsite technical conference at the Johnson Space Center last May through the NASA Community College Scholars Program (NCAS).
A Computer Information Sciences major, Tim was one of 19 PCCC students to be selected last winter from hundreds of nationwide applicants for NCAS. From that group, 14 were chosen to attend an onsite technical conference at a NASA location where they had an opportunity to network with engineers and experts at the space agency and to learn more about NASA projects.

“It was a fantastic experience,” said Tim. “We worked hard, especially on our robotics competition, but everyone was very collaborative and friendly,” he said. “They made us feel like we belong there.”

It was Tim’s performance at the onsite conference that won him the offer to serve as an NCAS Student Assistant.

“This is a relatively new position created in the last year,” explained Alicia Baturoni Cortez, NCAS program manager. “Eighteen students were hired from only the most talented NCAS alumni to come back as peer leaders and role models in this paid position. “

According to Ms. Baturoni Cortez, the student assistants – who are charged with assisting NCAS students during their onsite conference -  offer a “unique perspective as program alumni,” and  “are invaluable resources to both program staff and the current students.”

As an NCAS Student Assistant, Tim and another assistant oversaw a team of 48 students ranging in age from 18 to 56, as they worked on various tasks, particularly those leading up to the Rover competition.

“It was interesting to watch a group doing the tasks I had done in my group last spring,” said Tim.
“I especially enjoyed being able to just watch the competition without the pressure of trying to win.”

Attracted to science since he was a child, the 2016 graduate of West Milford High School said he was not a particularly distinguished student in high school. “I was indifferent,” Tim explained.

When he first came to PCCC, Tim was not seeking involvement. “I just wanted to get my degree and move on,” he said. But that changed when he encountered the STEM department.

“They really supported me and made me want to get involved,” said Tim. Through STEM, he learned about NCAS and about the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society (PTK). “When I heard about the PTK opportunities and scholarships, that’s when I really started to get active,” he said.

Looking back, 2017 has been a banner year for Tim. He was elected treasurer of PTK, became a member of the Engineering Club, won recognition from NASA, and in his extracurricular life, the longtime member of the Boy Scouts recently achieved the prestigious level of Eagle Scout.

Looking ahead to life after PCCC, Tim plans to continue his education towards a bachelor’s degree at New Jersey Institute of Technology. But before then, he wants to make another landing at NASA. ‘I’m going to apply for a summer internship there,” said Tim, who is hoping for an internship focused on software development.

“It’s a great atmosphere at NASA,” he added. “Everyone loves what they’re doing, and you can really sense how interested they are in their work.”

That sense of engagement has influenced the long-term future plans of this formerly “indifferent” student. “My career goal after NCAS,” said Tim, “has opened up to getting a job with NASA, preferably at Johnson Space Center.”

Get more information about the NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars Program @ PCCC.