'I couldn't tell anyone': Kiwi student had to keep NASA internship selection secret

One of the four Kiwi students selected for a NASA internship says he had to keep the news secret for a period.

Hammond Pearce, a computer systems engineering student at the University of Auckland, was one of four selected for the internship under a new agreement between the space administration and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), from a pool of more than 200 applicants.

Pearce told The AM Show he was in a meeting at university when he got a call about the internship.

"I'd forgotten to put my phone on silent, and it rang," he said.

"I left the room and then picked it up, and then was told 'hey - you can't tell anyone yet but we're going to advance your application to NASA'.

"Then I had to go back into the meeting and people were like: 'Well who was that'?"

The other three selected were Rosemary Swears and Steven McCabe from the University of Waikato, and Andrew Alder from the University of Boulder in Colorado - previously from the University of Auckland.

Pearce put his successful application down to work ethic.

"It's being dedicated to the goals that you set yourself," he told The AM Show.

"Definitely there's a focus on the academic side of things - if you want to achieve any kind of science or technology goal you have to have a bit of academic focus, but a lot of it is just coming down to drive."

The Government says the scholarships are part of a pilot. An assessment to determine whether or not to continue the scheme will be made at the end of the year.

The standard of applications demonstrated the "high quality of New Zealand's tertiary education", Economic Development Minister David Parker said on Monday.

"I'm pleased this vision includes supporting students like Rose, Steve, Andrew and Hammond as they pursue their research in space-related fields at the highest levels," he said.