In 2016, Terelle Cadd was stacking boxes at a UPS warehouse and pursuing an associate degree in business. Realizing his current path wasn’t fulfilling, he boldly chose to switch his major to engineering. Why? Because he wanted to make a difference in the world.
The switch wasn’t easy. A “C” student in high school, Terelle had to enroll in remedial-level math courses to get up to speed. Despite wanting to drop out because he felt “so far behind,” his dream pulled him through, and he completed his first set of engineering courses at the top of his class. In 2019, Terelle earned his Associate of Science degree from Virginia Western Community College and secured an internship at NASA’s Langley Research Center – his first opportunity to apply his STEM knowledge to real-world problems to come up with important solutions. During this internship, he achieved another first – presenting his work at an American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Student Conference, where he met his mentor, Dr. Elizabeth Ward, NASA’s Program Director for Multidisciplinary Research Projects.
After his first internship, Terelle transferred to Virginia Tech’s Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering (AOE) program where he had multiple internship opportunities with NASA’s Academy Team through Dr. Ward. He worked on rovers designed to explore locations unsafe for humans and was part of a team that used NASA technology to assist firefighters by developing an image-processing algorithm for drone technology that could detect and plot wildfire perimeters in real time. Terelle and his team presented their work at AIAA’s SciTech Forum and the Tactical Fire Remote Sensing Advisory Committee (TFRSAC) Conference. They all received positive feedback from wildland firefighting agencies, such as the U.S. Forest Services, and were invited to continue their projects.
During summer 2021, when he was working on wildfire technology, Terelle’s life changed again when he was named Virginia Tech’s Astronaut Scholar. As someone who had to hold a job in order to pay for college, the Astronaut Scholarship allowed Terelle to take a semester off work to focus solely on his studies. In May 2022, Terelle graduated from Virginia Tech with a 4.0 GPA and was named “outstanding senior.” He plans to continue his studies at Virginia Tech while pursuing a Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering.
Terelle is grateful to the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation for its immense opportunities. At the 2021 Innovator’s Gala, he relished engaging with astronauts and other successful STEM leaders who were all eager to answer his questions and offer advice.
“ASF also introduced me to a network of hardworking, like-minded students,” he said. “We each come from different backgrounds, but we share a passion for changing the world for the better. I feel like I’ve joined a second family. Any time we need advice, there is always someone willing to help who is just a call or text away. ASF took a chance with me. I hope to pay it forward by encouraging others to be the best version of themselves and help them redefine what they believe is possible with their lives.”