Dean Lara Sharp used the launch of the Artemis moon rocket as a way to connect STEM programs at STCC to exciting careers.

The rocket was scheduled to take off on Tuesday – the same day as the STEM orientation at Springfield Technical Community College – but NASA scrubbed the launch because of technical issues.

Lara Sharp, dean of the School of STEM, told nearly 100 students (some with their family members) that programs they might be studying this fall can be a pathway to a career at NASA. Even if they don’t work for the space agency, they might find jobs at companies that make products for NASA.

“This could be that moment in your life where if NASA is your long-term goal, you can start right here,” she said, noting that the Mechanical Engineering Technology program trains students to use the same machines that make parts for NASA.

Students enrolled in Electrical Engineering Technology learn wiring. “There are miles and miles of wiring that go into those ships and take care of the crew,” she said. “You can learn that here.”

STCC also teaches physics, which is used to get a ship to the moon and back. And then there is chemistry, which is needed to make the fuel.

Also at the orientation, new students heard from the staff of the STEM Center, a venue on campus for students to learn, get information and be social.

“We want you to feel part of the family here,” Sharp said.

Marlene Johnson, the Title V STEM Director, said she and others on the STEM Center staff are committed to supporting the students throughout their academic journey. STCC is a Hispanic Serving Institution, which means the college has received federal grants that benefit all students. A U.S. Department of Education HSI STEM grant funds the STEM Center, which offers services and support to all students taking STEM classes.

The Center, located in Putnam Hall (B17), Room 425, includes a student study lounge and a computer lab. Students can meet with tutors and explore careers. They can drop in for quiz or exam make-ups.

Johnson said, “I’m passionate about STCC and passionate about what we do here.”

Many of the STCC students might relate to Johnson, who was a first-generation college student. A mother to a 17-year-old, she is currently pursuing her master’s degree. She said STCC staff and faculty understand how STCC students often have to juggle work and family with their studies.

“Some of you may have jobs; some of you may already have families,” she said. “Some of you may be taking care of a loved one.”

She encouraged them to stop by or contact the STEM Center for any assistance they might need while enrolled at STCC.

“At the STEM Center, we’re here to guide and support you,” she said.

STEM Center staff includes Johnson, Marta Burgos-Vega, Rachel Foltz, Andrea Gedeon and Jason Phillips.

For more information, visit