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Edwin Betady reaches for the stars, literally
Edwin Betady poses in front of a model of the Mars rover, Curiosity, at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. - photo by Photo Contributed

How does one go from being curious about space in junior high school to taking classes at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, commonly known as NASA? According to Edwin Betady, you follow your dreams.

Betady, a student at Merced College, took a circuitous route towards college after working for Homeland Security at the San Francisco International Airport after high school. Seeing the planes arrive and depart each day reminded Betady of his time in the Magnet Program at Dutcher Elementary School where he built rockets and tried out flying simulators. He soon realized it was time to take a serious step towards college and reenter the academic world.

“Seeing the airplanes is what brought it back and I told myself it is time to go back and get an education and find out what I really want to do,” said Betady. 

Fast forward a few years and Betady is enrolled at Merced College where he majors in aerospace engineering, minors in computer science, is a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and the founder and president of the Science, Math and Engineering Club. Betady’s intrepid work ethic also earned him a place in a semester-long program last fall where he participated in an online course that features lectures from NASA engineers on web cameras. It also required students to develop a 3D rover on their computer and a legitimate mission to Mars backed by scientific data. Betady’s impressive work awarded him a three-day trip to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena where Betady worked in a group with other students to create a small scale rover.

“It was absolutely amazing. Working with a team and actually developing something together, you don't always get that at our level, or at a four year university,” said Betady. “It kind of tells you ‘is this for me or not?’ and I loved every second of it. I would love to do that on a day to day basis as career.” 

The experience at NASA did more than boost Betady’s resume, as it confirmed his interest in working in Entry Descent and Landing which is the component of NASA’s work that ensures everything from rovers to human beings in a capsule enter the atmosphere and land on surfaces safely.

“I’ve always been in love with NASA and what they have done. I’m just fascinated by their work and being able to go out and get paid to explore space? That is even more awesome,” said Betady.

Betady’s future goals include finishing up coursework at Merced College before transferring to a four year university in the fall of 2015. While Betady has his eyes set on the University of California, Los Angeles, the University of California, Irvine or Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, he is still enjoying the success of his moment and wants his experiences to inspire other local students. 

“I hope this is an eye-opener for most high school students. After high school I lost track of where my passions were and I hope it motives them to keep pushing forward,” said Betady.