LOS ANGELES - Following the high-profile failure of its Mars probes, NASA has developed a $2 million, four-year grant that will use college students to find ways to keep its computer equipment safe in space.
NASA will employ 12 students from California State University, Northridge to study the effects of extreme temperatures and radiation on computer microchips. They also will explore ways to make the silicon and gallium arsenide wafers resistant to failure.
The program is designed to attract more minorities to scientific fields related to the agency's work, said Bettie White, director of NASA's Minority University Research and Education division.
CSU Northridge, with a large population of Hispanic students, was chosen in part because it has been designated a minority campus by the U.S. Department of Education.
''This is real research, investigating real problems,'' said Behzad Bavarian, an engineering professor and the program's principal investigator.
Students who participate in the program also will have a chance to intern at Pasadena's Jet Propulsion Laboratories.
''In a lot of courses, they give you theory and practice, but here you get a lot of practical experience,'' said 23-year-old junior Delaram Gidanian.