About Virginia Earth System Science Scholars

The Virginia Earth System Science Scholars (VESSS) program is an on-line Earth System Science course featuring NASA scientific research and data learning experience highlighted by a seven-day residential summer academy at NASA Langley Research Center (LaRC) in Hampton, Virginia. Students selected to participate in the program are immersed in NASA-related research through interaction with scientists, engineers and technologists.


Who can apply?

Students from across the state of Virginia are selected to participate through a competitive application process. In order to participate students must:

  • Be a high school junior or senior with an interest in STEM
  • Be a Virginia resident to participate in the online course
  • Be a U.S. citizen to attend the Summer Academy at NASA
  • Have a minimum GPA of 2.7
  • Have access to the Internet (home, school, public library)
  • Have an email address

What will students do?

During the school year, scholars will complete 7 web-based modules and a final project. The modules begin in December and are due every two weeks. Based upon the content of each module Scholars, will provide solutions to real-world questions, participate in discussion forums on current space-related topics with other Scholars and NASA scientists and engineers, and will hone their technical writing skills. Upon successful completion of the on-line course, scholars who perform well in the course may be selected to attend a week-long Summer Academy at NASA Langley (Hampton, VA), which will include:

  • A team project in which students design a mission to explore the Earth Systems through the launching of a satellite mission.
  • Tours of NASA Langley facilities
  • Mentoring by NASA engineers, scientists, and technologists
  • Briefings and seminars by astronauts, engineers, scientists and other NASA experts.

School districts may choose, but are not guaranteed, to grant a science elective credit towards graduation for students who successfully complete the online program and Summer Academy. This is entirely at the discretion of the individual school district. Scholars who are selected for the week-long academy at NASA Langley are provided transportation, housing, and meals during their stay.


How do I become a Virginia Earth System Science Scholar?

Complete the requirements located on the Application Instructions page.

The application deadline will be November 12, 2017 at 11:55PM. If your application is accepted for the program, you will be notified via email by November 17, 2017 and sent log-in information to begin working on the online curriculum. Each of the 7 modules and final project will be graded using the rubrics at the end of each lesson. Scholars are selected for the Summer Academy based on timely completion of all assignments, quality of work, participation in online discussions, and the final grade. NO ASSIGNMENT CAN BE MISSED.


What is the timeline?

September: Virginia schools receive information describing the program and guidelines

  • Aug 15, 2017 - Nov 12, 2017: Interested students complete online application
  • November 12, 2017 at 11:55PM: Application deadline
  • November 17, 2017: Students notified by email of their acceptance to the program and information on the distance learning course
  • December 2017 - April 2018: Students engage in distance learning assignments and on-line discussions to learn more about earth system science, LaRC mentors, and the other participants
  • May 2018: Students are selected for the summer program based on completion of lessons, quality of work, and timeliness.

On-site Summer Academy at NASA Langley Research Center:

  • June 23 - June 29, 2018
  • July 14 - July 20, 2018

How do I obtain more information?