Always Thinking of “Next Time” with AST

by | Sep 23, 2019 | Spotlight

 The College of the Canyon’s Aerospace and Scientists Team (AST) has given students, alumni, and faculty members the opportunity to put their interests in space to work – all in the name of finding ways to help the earth and the universe around us.
Teresa Ciardi is a co-chair in the Earth and Space Sciences department at COC, but aside from her responsibilities as a faculty member on campus, she’s racked up an impressive 600 hours of her own time dedicated to AST and their projects this past year.
Within the last four years, the team has generated a successful track record for themselves, the most recent achievement being a collaboration with NASA on their Solaris project. Solaris, as is the case with many of the team’s projects, was born from the students’ desires to help improve the planet – the goal of Solaris itself is to counteract harmful chemical effects plaguing the ecosystem with the neutralization of acid rain.
Most impressively is the team’s decision to pursue and complete two projects in one year – a concept virtually unheard of until it was done by AST.
Through their projects, AST has made a name for themselves as the only community college team to compete against four-year universities through NASA’s High Altitude Student Platform (HASP) – and be selected multiple years. The team is “constantly improving, evolving, and is on a constant learning curve”, Teresa shares when asked about her team’s dedication to developing new projects and ideas. “They’re always talking about ‘next time’ – how can we improve next time? What should we change for next time?”
The team plans to launch their next experiment with HASP in 2020, which will involve ways in which they can maintain thermal control of a living space with little or no electricity. The team further challenged themselves this year by launching an experiment on the 2019 NASA RocksatX sounding rocket — COC team members networked with university teams at NASA Wallops this past August while completing a series of tests prior to the August 12th launch. This is also the first-year AST has launched an experiment on NASA’s RocksatX rocket, and as the rocket left the launch pad in the early morning hours, the team members agreed that AST had to find a way to do this again next year.
“It’s a collaborative effort,” Teresa mentions regarding the most rewarding aspect of working with the team. “The learning goes both ways – students learn more about their passions for science and engineering, and I learn from them in the same way.” Watching students grow and become leaders has become one of the most significant outcomes of the team. “You don’t have to know everything, you just need to have an interest in it,” is the motto Teresa uses to describe the program’s openness — AST is open to anyone and everyone who shares an interest in science, engineering, and the world around them. When speaking of the team’s dynamics, Teresa shared that, “we are inclusive of everyone.”
Members of the team play a variety of roles within each project, ranging from computer coding to chemical tests and marketing. A trademark of the program is the fact that there is quite literally something for everyone – whether you’re a math whiz or an expert at wiring and working in machine shops, there’s a place for you in the Aerospace and Sciences Team.
The team is always looking for both high school and college students to join their ranks, and College of the Canyons alumni are welcome as well. For more information about AST, visit or email



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