About Virginia Earth System Science Scholars

The Virginia Earth System Science Scholars (VESSS) program is an online 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 and engineers and academia and industry professionals.

Who can apply?

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

Be a high school junior or senior with interest in STEM
● Be a Virginia resident
● 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 (school-issued emails cannot be used)


*Permanent residents may apply for the course; however, NASA security restrictions typically preclude non-citizen participation in the summer academies.

What will students do?

During the school year, scholars will complete seven 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 hone their technical writing skills.

Upon successful completion of the online 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 by launching a satellite.

Tours of NASA Langley facilities

Mentoring by NASA engineers, scientists, and technologists

Briefings and seminars by special speakers, 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 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 October 24, 2023, at 11:55 PM. Rolling admissions will be used for selection to the VESSS program.  If your application is accepted for the program, you will be notified within a week of your completed application.  If you apply closer to the deadline, you will be contacted via email by early November. Once accepted, you will be sent log-in information to begin working on the online curriculum. Each of the 7 modules and the final project will be graded using the rubrics at the end of each lesson. Scholars are selected for the Summer Academy based on the 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, 2023- October 24, 2023: Interested students complete online application

  October 24, 2023, at 11:55 PM: Application deadline

  Early November 2023: Students are notified by email of their acceptance to the program and information on the distance learning course

November 2023 – April 2024: Students engage in distance learning assignments and online discussions to learn more about earth system science, LaRC mentors, and the other participants

May 2024: Students are selected for the summer program based on completing lessons, quality of work, and timeliness.


On-site Summer Academy at NASA Langley Research Center


How do I obtain more information?

Ms. Kari Espada, VESSS Program Coordinator kespada@odu.edu phone: 757-766-5210

Ms. Rudo Kashiri, Education Program Manager rkashiri@odu.edu phone: 757-766-5210