COLLEGE STATION, Oct. 12, 2012 – A Texas A&M University geology professor has been named principal investigator for a five-year, $10-million grant to manage educational outreach programs for NASA's Johnson Space Center. The initiative aligns existing programs with the agency's goal of engaging the next generation of scientists and explorers through space-related STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) topics.
J. Rick Giardino, head of the Geology and Geophysics Department in the College of Geosciences, will lead the collaborative effort that includes educators from the Colleges of Geosciences and Science at Texas A&M and the College of Education's NASA Education Projects Office at Oklahoma State University.
Carolyn Schroeder, College of Science, and Rick Giardino, College of Geosciences, team with Oklahoma State University to provider greater access to science and technology education through the NASA Strategic Education Alliance program.In describing the project, Giardino recalled the influence that the space program has on science education. Over the decades, NASA has demonstrated its ability to capture the world in the thrill of space exploration and technology, Giardino said. "Translating the excitement of space exploration into a meaningful, relevant educational experience for students can trigger interest in STEM careers for the next generation of new explorers."
The project's principle investigators will manage a highly trained staff of teachers and education specialists to help design, develop, and implement research-based, innovative STEM opportunities for students from kindergarten through post-doctoral education. "Internships and fellowships for graduate and post-gradate research as well as professional development opportunities for science educators make the program truly far-reaching," Giardino said.
The grant builds on existing partnerships with Southwest Regional Space Grants, Oklahoma State and the Texas A&M System's 11 statewide institutions to expand the NASA educational projects throughout Texas and the nation, Giardino explained.
Giardino has overall leadership of the program and is liaison between the universities and the staff at the Strategic Education Alliance program based at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. Steve Marks, a professor with OSU's Aviation and Space Program, is co-principal investigator and will provide technical and logistical support.
Carolyn Schroeder, senior research associate in the College of Science's Center for Mathematics and Science Education, will work with state education agencies in identifying and communicating with thousands of science teachers across the state and region to involve them in the various education opportunities NASA offers.
Giardino said one reason the proposal succeeded was because of the strong, historical ties between the two universities and NASA. Schroeder received her doctorate in science education at Texas A&M and has been active in Giardino's successful G-Camps (geology field camps) for Texas teachers and Texas A&M students. The NASA point of contact is Frank Prochaska, a 1999 Texas A&M graduate and the agency's university affairs officer who has worked with Texas A&M in the past on NASA grants. Oklahoma State has had a robust space-education program for several years, Giardino said.
"The Johnson Space Center is very excited to partner with Texas A&M and Oklahoma State University," Prochaska said. "Working with such reputable and capable partners brings quality and professionalism to our programs. I'm very excited to see how this team leverages its strengths to enhance our STEM programs for the next generation of engineers and scientists."
By Karen Riedel
College of Geosciences
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