Space Foundation Education Programs Makes an Impact Across the Nation

Written by: Space Foundation Editorial Team

The Space Foundation recently shared its education mission across the nation in two very unique ways. The first was at the Suburban School Superintendents' conference at The Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs, Colo. Members of the organization represented 100 influential school districts in the United States. The Suburban School Superintendents' group meets annually so superintendents can share ideas and learn about cutting-edge trends in the education community.The Space Foundation was invited to present a Friday morning session to these leaders. The Foundation's featured presentation started with comments from Elliot Pulham, Space Foundation president and chief executive officer, on the current state of the space industry and its need for more scientists and engineers. Pulham commented this need can be met by more dynamic science education through the medium of space. Pulham's presentation was followed by engaging anecdotes from local astronaut Dr. James R. Reilly, II, who related his flight experiences on the STS-117 Atlantis to the challenges facing the superintendents. Reilly also shared his insights on the up-and-coming Constellation program and pointed out that Space Foundation programs could help bridge the gap for teachers and students. Iain Probert, vice president of education, concluded the presentation by discussing the Space Foundation's education programs and unveiling the new community outreach space education program, NEW HORIZONS.Second, the Foundation recently formed a partnership with the Chester-Upland school district in Penn. Chester-Upland school district formed the Science and Discovery High School this past fall to inspire and enlighten students in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The Chester-Upland school district has been under the control of the state for the past two years for not meeting Annual Yearly Progress standards, as dictated by the No Child Left Behind act. The school district has been looking for ways to inspire students and prepare them for the 21st century. Through connections with the former chairman of the Space Foundation, The Honorable Robert S. Walker, the Space Foundation, Project Forward Leap, and the Chester-Upland school district formed a partnership to help the struggling district. Under this partnership, the Space Foundation will provide cutting-edge education in science and technology areas by instructing students and training teachers.

Two Space Foundation education team members recently spent time in the Chester-Upland school district near Philadelphia, Penn., providing an opportunity for students to experience hands-on robotics. Bryan DeBates, senior aerospace education specialist, and Bobby Gagnon, aerospace education specialist, conducted a Science, Technology, and Academic Readiness for Space (STARS) program for students of the newly formed Science and Discovery High School. STARS is one of the student-oriented programs conducted by the education team.

DeBates and Gagnon met with 120 students over a two-day period. During that time, the two instructors helped the students design and build a robotic end-effector modeled after the human hand using meat trays, straws, string, and rubber bands. The project mirrored their lessons in science and technology classes. The students learned how robotic and human hands work by comparing and contrasting the muscles, ligaments, and joints. Students also learned about the Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity; Robonaut, the robot-astronaut being developed by NASA and DARPA; and NASA's plans to take humans back to the moon and on to Mars.

The workshops proved a success, starting the partnership off to an excellent start. All parties are looking forward to the Space Foundation's return in late February of 2009.

This article is part of Space Watch: December 2008 (Volume: 7, Issue: 12).