Education Programs Focus on Building Space Leaders of Tomorrow

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Education Programs Focus on Building Space Leaders of Tomorrow As big and exciting as the National Space Symposium is, many attendees don’t realize that there’s a parallel universe of educational activities going on throughout – and even after – the main event. Throughout the week, more than 100 teachers and administrators, 1,500 school children and about 200 college students benefited from the premier global gathering of the space community.

The Space Foundation’s education goals include helping teachers raise student proficiency in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by offering compelling hands-on learning opportunities, to inspire children to pursue space careers and to help college students and graduates connect with real-world jobs.

Teachers Learn On Site and Take Back to the Classroom

On March 30, more than 80 Teacher Liaisons (nationally recognized educators who are passionate about space science) and a group of school administrators from all over the country participated in a space-related workshop that included a NASA spacesuit exercise and hands-on sessions where teachers experimented with space shuttle tethering, designed a Lunar Lander or designed a Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS). The workshops were designed so that teachers could immediately apply the concepts learned in their classrooms when they returned home.

The teachers heard from Lt. Gen. Eugene Tattini, USAF, (Retired), who is now serving as chief operating officer and deputy director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, about some of JPL’s upcoming missions and how they relate to education.

They were also treated to an informative (and hilarious) talk-show-format presentation called The Astronaut Show: Down to Earth with the Guys From Space featuring former NASA Astronauts Col. Frederick D. Gregory, USAF (Retired), and Dr. James F. Reilly, Air Force astronaut candidate Livingston L. Holder, Jr., and Moderator Iain Probert, Space Foundation Vice President of Education. Prompted by audience questions, Gregory shared his experiences of serving as the first African-American shuttle commander, Reilly talked about his 22-day underwater venture as a geologist and how it took him eight tries to get accepted as an astronaut candidate, and Holder explained how the Challenger accident changed the direction of NASA and therefore removed him from astronaut candidacy, but how he was ultimately responsible for the functioning toilet on the International Space Station.

Students Meet Astronauts; Tour Boeing Exhibit Center

On April 1, Colorado-area students got to experience the 25th National Space Symposium first-hand through four separate “Audience with an Astronaut” sessions, sponsored by the New Mexico Space Grant. Two groups of 3rd though 5th graders met with former NASA Astronaut Dr. James F. Reilly, Reilly and two more groups of 6th through 8th graders met with former NASA Astronaut William F. Readdy.

Later that day, high school students toured the Boeing Exhibit Center, stopping at 20 “destination” booths for in-depth presentations from company representatives and, in one case, a starring role in some local television coverage.

Career Fair Helps Students Connect with Space Companies Offering Real Jobs

On April 2, about 200 college students and transitioning military participated in a Space Career Fair where they heard from companies about how to land space jobs and were able to meet with and distribute resumes to 25 companies, many that were filling actual job openings across the country. During the event, they heard from Space Foundation Vice President – Washington Operations, Research and Amalysis and The Space Report 2009 Editor Marty Hauser about the outlook for space careers, from President of the International Space University Dr. Michael Simpson about specialized education programs to prepare for space careers, and from Private Space Explorer and Space Ambassador Anousheh Ansari, the first private female space traveler, about the importance of space in everyday life and about the importance of following your dreams.

Experienced Teacher Liaisons Stay Over for Field Trip to NOAA

As most symposium attendees were heading home on April 3, a group of about 20 experienced Teacher Liaisons and school administrations traveled with the Space Foundation to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration facility in Boulder, Colo. Attendees toured the National Weather Service, where they learned about national weather forecasting; the Space Weather Prediction Center, where they saw how the center observes the sun for solar flares and coronal mass ejections that could harm communication satellites, GPS satellites, or the power grid; and Science on a Sphere, a six-foot-diameter sphere that has images projected on it from four different projectors to create spherical images of things such as the surface of planets, weather patterns around the world, or changes in water surface temperature from the mid-1800s to 2200.

This article is part of Space Watch: April 2009 (Volume: 8, Issue: 4).