Higher Education Programs

American University Office of the Dean / DC Space Grant Consortium Undergraduate Summer Fellowship Program

This program supports student-initiated scholarships and creative activities completed under the direction of faculty mentors. Fellowships include a stipend of $4000 for the student and up to $500 for research related expenses needed by the student for the completion of the project. Faculty will provide mentorship over the summer to help a student develop, execute and analyze an original scholarly or artistic project. This is our first year collaborting with the CAS Dean's office on this program, and we're excited to report the outcomes here after the students have completed their fellowships, so please be sure to check back in fall 2016!

Gallaudet University Robotics Program

This program supported the revision of an undergraduate physics lab course, the revision of an undergraduate physics course in science fiction and physics, and the revision of a physics course in global climate change at Gallaudet University.  The revised courses included construction of underwater remotely operated vehicles (ROV) as a semester-long student project.  Two faculty members and thirty-three deaf students participated in the revised courses at GU.  The lab experience is intended to give students direct experience with the use of technology to accomplish science objectives.  Our goals and objectives were to provide robotics activities for thirty undergraduate deaf students in three revised STEM courses.

During Fall 2014, students in GSR230-02 (Philosophysics of Science Fiction) build underwater ROVs (simulating a vehicle for a future mission to Europa) and they built a smart computer controlled rover to demonstrate artificial intelligence.  The goal of these activities was to use laboratory experiences to teach students practical knowledge about problem solving and provide hands-on experiences in powers and limitations of technology.

During Spring 2015, students in PHY154 (a physics with calculus course) built four ROVs in an all-semester project.  This course serves biology, chemistry and mathematics majors.  Its purpose was to provide extended teamwork experience using technology to accomplish mission science objectives.  This years ROV was improved by including more sensors and the wiring was simplified by designing and ordering pre-made circuit boards for the underwater control module.

During Spring 2015, an activity was done in the GSR230 Climate Change course with hand-held spectrometers to help students understand how remote sensing collects data about Earth.

Howard University RockSat-C Program

This program supports faculty-student research activities in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Howard University. A team of Howard University students made history when their in-flight research project was launched into space on June 26, 2014 from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.  This was the first payload ever launched into space that was entirely designed and built at Howard University – and only the second from an HBCU.  The project collected atmospheric samples near the highest point of the flight to test for the presence of microorganisms.  Data from the samples will be used to develop a bio-signature that can help look for life on Earth-like, extra-solar planets.  The Terrier-Improved Orion sounding rocket was launched at 7:21 a.m. EST and flew to a height of 73.3 miles. It landed in the Atlantic Ocean 43.9 miles from Wallops Flight Facility, 12.16 minutes after launch. It contained several other student-built experiments.

The project was part of the RockSat-C Program which provides an opportunity for students to design and build a sounding rocket payload, and launch the payload on a rocket. Student teams, like Howard’s, had been steadily working since the previous fall to design, plan, and build a payload that would perform an in-flight experiment. The RockSat program is funded and supported by the Colorado Space Grant Consortium, Virginia Space Grant Consortium, and NASA.

In anticipation of direct imaging of terrestrial worlds and determination of the components of their atmospheres, the students involved in this project decided to work on what might be expected in an atmosphere dominated by microbial life.  In order to create a better model, the students sampled dust particles near the Kahman line. The students designed a payload with valves and tubing that maintained a low vacuum and at the correct altitude exposed a PUF pad for collection of dust particles that could harbor biota. The valves opened at 80 km above the Earth’s surface before apogee and closed at 80 km after apogee. Thus only particles above 80 km were sampled. The exposed PUF pad was retrieved and analyzed with the help of the Howard University Biology Department.

INSPIRE Workshop Program
This program focuses on educational workshops on the topic of Teaching Science with an Enthusiastic Attitude.  INSPIRE also provides an overview of the VLF (very low frequency) Radio Receiver Kit as a hands-on classroom tool that generates excitement about the sciences and how hands-on experiences are important to life-long learning. Due to the positive student response received by DC middle and high school educators who participated in our NASA Space Camp for Educators program, INSPIRE is planning a workshop for DC educators who have not had the opportunity to attend the program. The workshop topic will be Teaching Science with an Enthusiastic Attitude and will include curricula and techniques acquired at the NASA Space Camp for Educators program, and will provide teachers with hands-on experiences to engage students in the STEM disciplines, including using INSPIREs VLF receiver.  INSPIRE Board Member and former astronaut and Vanderbilt professor Dr. Rick Chappell will be a guest speaker at the 2015-2016 workshop. 

K-12 STEM Educator Program

This program had 6 main phases (see below) designed to give pre-service STEM educators the experience, tools, and confidence they need to successfully teach a K-12 STEM subject when they graduate.

Phase 1: SSEP Mission 6 to the ISS: This activity was reported on last year, but the 4 students whose experiment was selected to fly to the International Space Station had additional activities to complete.  Their experiment was onboard a rocket that exploded at NASAs Wallops Flight Facility in October 2014, garnering immense media coverage and interviews.  NanoRacks invited them to re-do their experiment, and it flew to the ISS in January 2015.   They conducted a ground truth experiment while their experiment was on the ISS, and then it was returned to them in February 2015 so they could compare the results of their ISS experiment with their ground truth experiment.

Phase 2: NASTAR AEROSPACE Center: Students attended a week-long, hands on workshop at the NASTAR Center in Pennsylvania.  They were issued flight suits, and trained on a centrifuge, built rockets and launched them at an abandoned airport, trained on a flight simulator, learned about Newton’s three laws of motion, and lots of other hands-on classroom projects taken directly from NASA Education materials and lesson plans.

Phase 3: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center: Students spent a week at NASA Goddard with one of the country’s top astronomers.  They learned about the history of early astronomers and were involved with many hands on projects, including building a telescope to observe the night sky, and glasses to observe the sun safely.  They toured the many buildings at GSFC, and learned about the Hubble Telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope, and met with the Director of the Education department where they were given classroom materials, and information about how to get STEM mentoring and support as they begin their teaching careers.

Phase 4: Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Explainers Program: Our students were hired by the Smithsonian NASM Explainers Program from 2014-2015 for a period of 8 consecutive months, working 15 plus hours per month. They received extensive training from museum staff to become Explainers.  As such, they assisted thousands of museum visitors by assisting and explaining how the exhibits function in the How Things Fly Gallery, and other galleries as needed. They also presented demonstrations on aviation and space topics for audiences of 50 visitors or more. They also worked with the Discovery Station program presenting on a variety of STEM-based topics. They were instrumental in assisting with NASM Family Days and other special events throughout the year. This natural progression of going from STEM content learning to learning effective hands-on teaching methods to audience interaction has built an enormous amount of self-confidence in the students.  This experience will undoubtedly benefit them immensely as they become effective K-12 STEM educators. As the most visited museum in the world, NASM has offered an unparalleled opportunity for these pre-service teachers to begin imparting their knowledge and skills in the classroom and beyond.

Phase 5: DC Public School STEM Workshop/Activity: The venue for this two day student/teacher training workshop in May 2015 was Stuart Hobson Middle School in Washington, DC.  The students that attend this public school are predominately African American.  Our students prepared lesson plans and ran this workshop in which they taught 48 6th grade students a STEM-based, space-themed, math game called TiViTz. This hands-on opportunity to teach STEM lessons directly to 48 students and 3 teachers in a classroom setting at the culmination of their experiences was most successful, and highly beneficial to all involved.  48 K-12 students broke into teams of two and competed to come up with the largest math equations. Prizes were given for those with the highest totals. This activity made learning math fun, competitive, and challenging.  The DC Public School teachers told us that their 6th graders were so engaged by the activity that they continue to play TiViTz on a weekly basis, and welcome us back anytime for another tournament.

Phase 6: Students participated in a graduation ceremony and dinner in the Pilgrim Observatory at The National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., during which time they each got up and spoke about their experiences in this program and how they plan to utilize their STEM lesson plans and experiences in their classrooms.