Educator Features

Get a Head Start on a NASA Career
10.17.06
Two students wear safety glasses, gloves and aprons as one works with a pipette
Would your students like to work with airplanes or spacecraft someday? They can get a head start today through NASA.

Image to left: Students work together to prepare an experiment for flight aboard the space shuttle. Credit: NASA

NASA's Science, Engineering, Mathematics and Aerospace Academy project engages K-12 students in exciting, hands-on activities that encompass the research and technology of NASA's missions. From designing student experiments flown on board the International Space Station, to exploring a simulated Martian surface via programmable rovers, SEMAA is launching interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics across the country. Operating in 17 locations throughout 13 states and the District of Columbia, SEMAA provides students with a total of 441 hours of advanced studies in STEM prior to enrollment in a post-secondary institution.

Two students work with a laptop and a small robotic vehicle
Image to right: Two students learn teamwork and advanced programming techniques as they work on a robot of their own design. Credit: NASA

SEMAA offers activities during the academic year and summer, all at no cost to participants. Academic year sessions take place during school, after school or on Saturday mornings (unique to each location). These sessions include 21 classroom contact hours for students in grades 3-12 (and 12 classroom contact hours for students in grades K-2). Summer sessions provide students in grades K-12 with an additional 15 classroom contact hours.

SEMAA shows students how their mathematics and science lessons are useful in the real world. But they do more than that. They teach about real NASA research. Each grade level has a different topic. The topics tie in to different things NASA does. For example, kindergarten students learn about going to the moon. Third-graders learn about eating and working on the International Space Station. Seventh-graders learn about flight by designing and launching a hot air balloon. Ninth-graders become "space scientists," learning about the universe around them. (Summer courses have different topics, giving students a wider variety of experience.)

Two students practice their flight skills in a dome-shaped simulator
High school students get even more hands-on experience. They conduct individual and group research projects and get to work as a team.

Image to left: Students use an advanced flight simulator to learn the fundamentals of flight. Credit: NASA

SEMAA participants have been able to do some very unique and exciting things. A group of students at the Fernbank Science Center SEMAA site in Georgia helped with an experiment that was conducted on board the International Space Station. They even got to meet an astronaut. "It's just so strange to imagine that I will have participated in an experiment that is in space," one of the students said. "It's very cool!"

Related Resources
+ NASA Education Web Site

+ SEMAA Homepage

+ NASA's Flying Trailer
In addition to student activities, SEMAA offers other resources for students, teachers and families. For example, the SEMAA Family Café links parents/adult caregivers to information and other opportunities available to support their students' education. The Aerospace Education Laboratory is a "computerized classroom" that lets students solve real-world challenges and offers exciting virtual-reality aerospace simulations.

SEMAA is one of many NASA projects to prepare the next generation of scientists, engineers, astronauts and others. 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.

David Hitt/NASA Educational Technology Services