Feature

Growing Up With NASA
09.05.07
Young Bianca wears a blue flight suit that is far too big for her

Bianca Baker was in the third-grade when she joined the cast of NASA SCI Files.
Image Credit: Bianca Baker

Bianca Baker was just 8 years old when she joined the cast of NASA SCIence Files™. SCI Files was a public television series that introduced students in grades three through five to NASA. Bianca was one of the show's Tree House Detectives, a group of youngsters who solved real-world problems by getting help from NASA experts.

As a third-grader herself, Bianca was also part of the show's target audience.

"A lot of the stuff I was talking about in the show was actually stuff I was learning about in school," she said. "It was kind of simultaneously teaching me."

Now 18, Bianca is in college and studying science on her own. She is majoring in biology with a pre-med option at Virginia Tech. She said being involved in the SCI Files investigations made her a better student in math and science.

"I've always been good at science, but math has never been one of my strong points," Bianca said. "I was actually intimidated by it (math) in elementary and middle school. ... Now, I actually have a confidence in it. I don't use it as a weakness anymore. It definitely is a strength now, and that's definitely because of NASA."

Bianca is thinking about specializing in immunology, the study of the body's immune system.

"You get to look into the cells and get to figure out why certain things, like proteins, in your body, do what they do, and you can take that information and figure out ways to cure diseases that right now are not curable," she said.

Steve Cook and Bianca standing in front of a large test stand

Bianca Baker with Steve Cook, director of Exploration Launch Projects at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. Image Credit: Shannon Ricles/NASA SCI File

One of Bianca's favorite SCI Files episodes is "The Case of the Unknown Stink" from the 2000-01 season.

"We got to go to the waste plant, and I never in my life knew the process that they put waste through, and at the end it was like crystal water," Bianca said.

SCI Files investigations integrated mathematics, science and technology by using problem-based learning, scientific inquiry and the scientific method. It was one of many NASA projects preparing the next generation of scientists, engineers and astronauts. NASA is working to excite today's students about science, technology, engineering and mathematics so they can carry on NASA's mission in the future.

Produced by NASA Langley Research Center's Office of Education, SCI Files aired on PBS stations across the United States from 1999 to 2007. Copies of the shows, which come with NASA educator guides about the shows' investigations, are available through the Central Operation of Resources for Educators, or CORE.

Bianca in a white graduation cap and gown

Bianca graduated third in her class and is attending Virginia Tech.
Image Credit: Bianca Baker

Bianca also recorded short video segments answering kid-friendly science questions, like why is the sky blue and what makes popcorn pop, for NASA's Kids Science News Network™, and recorded voice-overs for NASA CONNECT™, a program for grades six through eight. KSNN's "What Makes Popcorn Pop?" was Bianca's first KSNN appearance.

Bianca graduated third in her high school class. She started the 2007 fall semester at Virginia Tech as a sophomore. She participated in her school's First College program, where students complete their first year of college classes while in high school. She plans to continue acting, too, and hopes to do research with NASA again someday.

Related Resources
Bianca Baker Podcast
NASA SCI Files™  →
NASA Kids Science News Network™  →
KSNN "What Makes Popcorn Pop?"  →
NASA CONNECT™  →
NASA Education Web Site  →
NASA CORE  →

Heather R. Smith/NASA Educational Technology Services