Educator Features

Girl Scouts Shadow NASA Scientists
02.07.07
Microbiologist Monsi Roman credits her junior high science teacher with fostering her interest in working with biology. Astrophysicist Mitzi Adams was inspired to study science by her dad, a Lockheed-Georgia electrician who took her to a nearby naval air station to observe planes take off and land.

Now, these two NASA scientists are inspiring the next generation of researchers.

Girl Scouts load model rockets onto launch pads
Roman and Adams are scientists at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. They were two of 10 Marshall women who participated in the job shadowing portion of Alabama's Place in Space Days, Nov. 17-18. The event was a combined effort of Marshall, Girl Scouts of North Alabama, and the U.S. Space & Rocket Center.

Image to left: Alabama Girl Scouts prepare to launch model rockets during Alabama's Place in Space Days at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. Credit: NASA

Twenty-five Cadette Girl Scouts, ages 12-15, learned about different types of jobs women at NASA are doing by talking with the 10 Marshall professionals about what they do and how they chose their career. A total of 240 Girls Scouts and their leaders participated in the two-day Place in Space event.

Roman is a project manager for Marshall's Exploration Life Support Office, which researches and develops technologies for supporting life on future space exploration projects, including missions to the moon and Mars. She has a degree in microbiology and has worked for NASA 17 years designing life support systems such as the water and air systems on the International Space Station. The former Girl Scout said job shadowing events like this one are a unique way to expose young people to professions they may not have heard of or considered.

Roman made the decision to study biology in seventh-grade after enjoying a class in biology and talking with the teacher about her interest. She said it was the interaction with her biology teacher that encouraged her to pursue that subject as her career.

"Part of the reason I became a microbiologist is I liked the class and talked with the professor," she said. "I think that personal connection with someone who cares and has passion for what they do goes a long way."

Adams told the girls about her career studying solar science. Adams, who is also a former Girl Scout, is currently supporting the Japanese-led Hinode mission, a project that will study the solar atmosphere from its lowest layer to the highest. Hinode is a Japanese word meaning "sunrise." The project, named Solar-B until after launch, is a collaboration of the space agencies of the United States, Japan, Europe and the United Kingdom.

Related Resources
+ NASA Marshall Space Flight Center

+ NASA Education Web site

+ U.S. Space & Rocket Center

+ Girl Scouts of the USA
"I'd always wanted to be a scientist of some kind and I had a choice to make. I was interested in both geology and astronomy, but astronomy won out," Adams said. She has a master's degree in physics and has worked at Marshall 18 years.

Adams said job shadowing is good for showing students what a job is really like so they can start choosing what they want to study.

NASA education specialist Kristy Hill, who coordinated the event for Marshall, said the goal of the job shadowing was to engage middle school girls and to model careers they might consider for themselves.

"It's important for girls to see women in professional jobs and be able to imagine themselves in those kinds of positions," Hill said. "We hope that [job shadowing] encouraged those girls to begin thinking about careers in science and technology."

The workshops in November drew a crowd of 240 girls and their leaders from 33 troops all over Alabama. The younger scouts made water-bottle rockets out of two-liter bottles and participated in two engineering design challenges. The challenges included designing a thermal protection system using copper and aluminum foil, and designing a water filtration system using materials such as sand, aquarium rocks and charcoal.

The older girls focused more on rocketry -- creating and launching straw rockets, model rockets and water-bottle rockets.

Hill added that the purpose of both the job shadowing and the workshops were to encourage girls in the areas of science and mathematics, and to show them how Alabama contributes to NASA.

Girl Scouts of the USA has worked with NASA for more than 15 years to promote interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Currently, more than one-third of Girl Scout councils, comprising more than 100,000 girls, have attended one or more training events involving NASA missions, research and centers.

Through support of events like Alabama's Place in Space Day, NASA continues its tradition of investing in the nation's education and furthers its major education goal of attracting and retaining students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines. To compete effectively for the minds, imaginations and career ambitions of America's young people, NASA is focused on engaging and retaining students in education efforts that encourage their pursuit of disciplines critical to NASA’s future engineering, scientific and technical missions.

Heather R. Smith/NASA Educational Technology Services