Science Courses Give Students Hands-On Experience in STEM Fields

Science students hunting freshwater spongeRedlands Community College students have the opportunity to figuratively and literally get their hands dirty with research and lab programs in the Science Department. Thanks to a partnership with NASA, Redlands students are able to participate in undergraduate research and enroll in a course that gives them a hands-on, STEM challenge.

“These opportunities give our students valuable experience that prepares them for completing additional degrees at a four-year university,” said Dr. Kathleen Coughlan, head of the Science Department. “Research experience at four-year institutions is competitive, and to have undergraduate research as a freshman or sophomore will strengthen students’ academic skill set and assist them with future research at a university.”

Both the Natural Sciences class and NASA Community College Aerospace (NCAS) course are available by application only. Redlands students must apply through the Science Department for the Natural Sciences research course by Nov. 4. Any community college student can apply for the five-week online class offered through NCAS. Applications are available at and due Nov. 18.

The Natural Sciences course includes both research in the lab and in the field. Students will apply the material they learned on their STEM courses to solve real world problems regarding sponge ecology. The small class size enhances the in-the-field research students conduct throughout the state, and gives them the opportunity to interact with the faculty more closely.

Due to Redlands’ participation in the Oklahoma Space Grant, the College receives funding from NASA to pay the tuition and fees for students selected for the sponge research course.

The NCAS online course, open to students at any community college, benefits science majors by providing experiences for solving scientific problems that affect the NASA missions. After successfully completing the course, students have the opportunity to participate in an on-site STEM engineering experience working with other community college students and meeting with Oklahoma industry leaders. The students form teams and establish fictional companies interested in Mars exploration. Each team is responsible for developing and testing a prototype rover, forming a company infrastructure, managing a budget, and developing communications and outreach.

“Over the past few years, Redlands students have greatly benefited from their experiences in these courses. Redlands students have presented their research at the state and national levels, and have traveled to NASA sites to work with students from across the country and learn from NASA scientists,” said Coughlan. “We’re excited to offer these opportunities to our students to broaden their view of how STEM education relates to a variety of career paths.”

Coughlan will be hosting a Zoom information session about NCAS Thursday, Oct. 29 at 2 p.m. or 6 p.m. Please visit for login information for the Zoom session.

For more information about the Natural Sciences class or NCAS course, contact Coughlan at or 405.422.6225.