Calling Young Space Explorers: FIU NASA CRE2DO Program Expands | FIU news

“Most kids think that NASA is for astronauts,” Vindicto says. “It is, but it is so much more than that. I get the kids to talk about moon rocks, materials that are too thin to be seen with the eye and plants growing in space. They begin to understand that being an astronaut is more than just living on the space station and that NASA offers a collection Variety of career opportunities.

Currently, for example, NASA has jobs for scientists, engineers, and IT professionals, but also for business analysts, accountants, lawyers, and psychologists.

Venedicto is the perfect example of how the NASA CRE2DO program is helping achieve one of NASA’s key missions — seeing more minorities and underrepresented students enroll in STEM programs, says Daniela Rado, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Mechanics and Materials Engineering. She is also the director of the NASA CRE2DO and National Science Foundation (NSF) Center for Research and Education in Materials (PREM).

Radu and FIU recently received nearly $8 million in grants to increase diversity and inclusion in the latest research from NASA and NSF. In the laboratories of the Financial Intelligence Unit, studies are carried out on flexible space infrastructure materials, communications devices and micro-satellite technology.

“How will humans survive in space? This is NASA’s directorate,” says Radu. “We are working on all elements to build an ecosystem on the Moon, and by bringing more women and minorities into the STEM stage, we are building momentum in efforts to ensure that underrepresented individuals are important members of these task forces.”

Radu says FIU’s NASA CRE2DO program has been a success, with 3 postdoctoral participants, 15 graduate students participating in the research, and 22 FIU undergraduate students being mentored by CRE2DO associate members. About 16 students have become NASA interns, working everywhere from the Kennedy Space Center to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to the Langley Research Center and Goddard Space Flight Center.

“With lab experience and NASA internships on their resume, our students are quickly placed in jobs after interviews,” Radu says.

The program’s growth is exciting, says Edwimar Henstrosa, who serves as its research coordinator in the Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering. “We have now expanded beyond our university students to do outreach to K-12 students, engaging them in activities from projects dealing with climate change to the Artemis Challenge,” she says. “It gives young students a much greater perspective on their world.”

Through the Artemis missions, NASA is rekindling interest in lunar exploration and inspiring the next generation of scientists. One of its goals is to land the first American woman and person of color on the moon.

Through the NASA CRE2DO program, FIU has worked with high school students at the TERRA Environmental Research Institute in Miami, as well as elementary and middle school students at Pinecrest Cove Preparatory Academy and AcadeMir Charter School West & East. Students throughout Miami-Dade County in the FIU Upward Bound Program through Student Access and Success are also given opportunities to participate in NASA CRE2DO activities.

For Venedicto, her time as an undergraduate research intern at FIU’s NASA CRE2DO Center helped her build on what she was learning in the classroom, enhancing her skills in lab, analysis, and collaboration, as well as her knowledge of nanomaterials.

“You can be a star at NASA without being an astronaut,” she says. “Without the program, I would not have pursued a Ph.D., and I would probably have been a miserable medical student.”

Students or educators who would like FIU to bring NASA content to their school or student organization, contact Hinestroza at or visit