Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Idaho Students to Study with NASA Experts this Summer

More than 70 Idaho students will get the chance to study space exploration and rub elbows with NASA officials and Idaho experts in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) this summer.

These students are part of the newly created Idaho Science and Aerospace Scholars Program.

“The Idaho Science and Aerospace Scholars Program is an unprecedented opportunity for Idaho students to work directly with experts in science, technology, engineering and mathematics at NASA as well as within the State of Idaho,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna said. “With the support of NASA and our in-state partners, we will continue to provide this exciting new program for Idaho students in the coming years.”

In 2009, Superintendent Luna worked with astronaut and Boise State Distinguished Educator-in-Residence Barbara Morgan to create this competitive program that allows Idaho high school juniors to take an engaging online course developed by NASA and to compete for the opportunity to work on developing a mission to Mars with NASA and Idaho scientists and engineers.

The State Department of Education has funded this initial pilot year of the Idaho Science and Aerospace Scholars Program with help and support from partners, such as Boise State University, Idaho Digital Learning Academy, Discovery Center of Idaho, Micron Foundation, Hewlett-Packard, Idaho National Laboratory, Idaho Air National Guard, University of Idaho and Idaho State University.

In its first year, 73 students enrolled in the Idaho Science and Aerospace Scholars Program. These students have completed the online course and will participate in Capstone Celebrations, daylong academies that give students the opportunity to share what they have learned and be immersed in STEM activities. Each Capstone Celebration will feature hands-on educational activities and demonstrations of knowledge gained and lessons learned during the online course. The Capstone Celebrations are strategically located at the Idaho Air National Guard in Boise, Center for Advanced Energy Studies in Idaho Falls and University of Idaho in Moscow to serve all students statewide. The three Capstone Celebrations will be held June 10, 14 and 16, 2010, respectively.

In addition, 44 students will be selected, based on their performance in the online course, to participate in a weeklong Idaho Science and Aerospace Scholars Summer Academy on August 1-7, 2010, which will take place partly at Boise State, Micron Technology and the Discovery Center of Idaho, and partly at the NASA Ames Research Center in California. At the Summer Academy, students will be immersed in a NASA mission, a problem-based engineering design challenge. STEM experts, teachers and mentors will guide these Idaho students as they design a human mission to Mars.

The Idaho Science and Aerospace Scholars Program will continue to expand. In January, NASA awarded Idaho nearly $1 million in grant funding to expand this program to serve 400 students over the next two years.

~ Melissa M.

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