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Learning by Doing: NASA's Airborne Research Experience for Educators
August 19, 2013

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Twelve educators from across the country came to the high desert of Southern California in July to participate in NASA's Airborne Research Experience for Educators (AREE), a 10-day workshop and research experience at the agency's Dryden Flight Research Center.

Funded by NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., Earth Science Project Office and Dryden's Office of Education, the AREE project targeted STEM teachers who taught grades four through 12 in both formal classroom and informal settings such as science centers or museums.

This year's AREE program focused on three unique "real-world" components: citizen science through the GLOBE curricular protcols, industry-standard engineering design models and computer science and data calibration / validation with the Arduino microcontroller.

While teachers sat at monitors in the Global Hawk control room, project personnel explained the displays and how they were used to show the different aspects of the mission.

"I never thought of how the satellite time window would affect surveillance of a hurricane," stated Arizona teacher Laura Menard. "I can now see when we need aircraft to monitor the storms. It was interesting to see how many monitors they use in the control center to monitor different data and readings from the aircraft simultaneously."

An important selection criterion for the AREE project was the number of years applicants had been teaching. Nearly half of the teachers who were chosen were early in their careers -- 2 to 5 years – the period where research has shown that educators are the most likely to leave the profession.

Two other criteria were the percentage of under-represented student populations at their schools, as well as a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) background.

The activities taking place in late July focused on two NASA Earth science missions. One, the Airborne Tropical TRopopause Experiment or ATTREX, studies the atmosphere's interaction of the physical processes in the boundary between the troposphere and stratosphere, called the tropopause.

The ATTREX mission in 2014 will see a Global Hawk autonomously operated aircraft fly over Guam and Hawaii in the tropical tropopause layer at about 10 miles in altitude. This layer impacts the composition of the stratosphere, including the amount of water vapor and ozone concentrations.

The second mission is the Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel, or HS3, mission that is investigating how tropical storms form to become hurricanes. HS3, now in its second year, involves data collection by both of NASA's long-endurance Global Hawk aircraft over storm systems that develop over the Atlantic Ocean.

Teachers also received technical content instruction from mission scientists and engineers that included use of technology via an online tool to monitor missions real-time, and inquiry-based teaching and learning, as well as engineering design.

"Today was a motivating day. The presenters were great and the information extremely useful," expressed Southern California teacher Antonio Gamboa. "I have a much better grasp and understanding about the NASA missions and how I could integrate them into my class."

The experiences will be translated into classroom practice through a thematic STEM module developed during the program. The module also provided instruction on the use of Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE), a worldwide hands-on primary and secondary school education program where students use GLOBE protocols to make data observations, and report these observations to the GLOBE website.

"I liked the GLOBE activities because I had not even been exposed to some of those instruments before," said Kentucky teacher Erica Lynch. "While weather may not be taught extensively in my subjects, I think the process of gathering data can be useful and beneficial in the classroom. Using a barometer to predict storms, finding wind speed, as well as determining temperature and humidity would tie in very well with flight projects."

This year's AREE participants included:

  • Jessica Chan, from Oak Knoll Montessori School in Los Angeles,
  • Natalie Twitchell from  Griffiths Middle School, Downey, Calif.,
  • Phyllis Friello from Baltimore School for the Arts, Baltimore, Md.,
  • Cristina  Navarro from the Billy Mitchell Elementary School in Hawthorne, Calif.,
  • Eric Sands from Wasco High School in Wasco, Calif.,
  • Thierno Tall from the Edward M. Kennedy Health Careers Academy in Cambridge, Mass.,
  • Jamie Ballard from Bunche Middle School in Costa Mesa, Calif.,
  • Antonio Gamboa from Garey High School in Pomona, Calif.,
  • Erica Lynch from McCracken County High School in Calvert City, Ky.,
  • Jalel Ben Hmida from Lafayette High School in Breaux Bridge, La.,
  • Laura Menard from St. Pius Elementary School in Lafayette, La.,
  • Heather Cavell of the Arizona Virtual Program, K-12 Schools, Vail, Ariz.

For more on NASA's AREE program, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/audience/foreducators/teachingfromspace/home/arees/index.html

For more on the ATTREX mission, visit:

http://science1.nasa.gov/missions/attrex/

For more on NASA's Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel, or HS3, mission visit:

http://espo.nasa.gov/missions/hs3/content/HS3_0

More on the GLOBE program is available at:

http://science-edu.larc.nasa.gov/GLOBE/

Leslie Williams, Public Affairs
NASA Dryden Flight Research Center

NASA Dryden test range operations technician Daniel Burgdorf explains the various flight test data parameters displayed on screens that are monitored by flight test engineers to AREE program teachers in one of Dryden's control rooms. (NASA / Ken Ulbrich)
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NASA Dryden research pilot Tom Miller (second from left) explains capabilities of the NASA Global Hawk unmanned aircraft to AREE program participants Natalie Twitchell, Laura Menard and Eric Sands. (NASA / Ken Ulbrich)
NASA Dryden research pilot Tom Miller (second from left) explains capabilities of the NASA Global Hawk unmanned aircraft to AREE program participants Natalie Twitchell, Laura Menard and Eric Sands. (NASA / Ken Ulbrich)
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AREE 2013 program teachers Jamie Ballard, Natalie Twitchell, Erica Weathers and Jalel Ben Hmida examine a lightweight insulation tile from a space shuttle mission during their tour of NASA Dryden's Flight Loads Laboratory. (NASA / Ken Ulbrich)
AREE 2013 program teachers Jamie Ballard, Natalie Twitchell, Erica Weathers and Jalel Ben Hmida examine a lightweight insulation tile from a space shuttle mission during their tour of NASA Dryden's Flight Loads Laboratory. (NASA / Ken Ulbrich)
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Heather Cavell, one of 12 teachers involved in NASA's Airborne Research Experience for educators this summer, details NASA's HS3 hurricane study and ATTREX environmental science mission to members of the public attending a recent Thursday Night on the Square activity in Palmdale. (NASA / Shaun Smith)
Heather Cavell, one of 12 teachers involved in NASA's Airborne Research Experience for educators this summer, details NASA's HS3 hurricane study and ATTREX environmental science mission to members of the public attending a recent Thursday Night on the Square activity in Palmdale. (NASA / Shaun Smith
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