As part of the Interdisciplinary National Science Project Incorporating Research and Education Experience - or INSPIRE - students engage with individuals in the Online Learning Community who have the same interests, expectations and goals as they do. The OLC is a virtual community that provides exciting educational opportunities. High school students from across the nation have the chance to interact with their peers 24 hours a day, seven days a week, through the OLC.
Meet students who are members of the 2012-2013 OLC, and read what they have to say about INSPIRE.
In what ways has the INSPIRE Online Learning Community enabled you to connect personally with NASA?
Casey: Participating in the Freshman Summer Stem Experience after my first year definitely helped me see what future jobs and careers were available at NASA. I got to meet some older interns, and they offered some great advice on what classes to take and what I could expect in coming years. The Virtual STEM Experiences, or VSEs, that were offered last summer were fun, educational and just like being in a classroom with the NASA staff. And of course, I appreciate the personal feedback we get on our dropbox submissions and learning about different aspects of NASA through the LiveChats.
Clayton: The NASA INSPIRE project has given me the advantage of connecting with NASA. The project's activities are filled with STEM-related topics in a variety of fields, and I am able to broaden my studies in topics such as heliophysics or even astrobiology. Other features, such as the LiveChats, enable me to connect with NASA experts in related fields. I get to see some of the latest research done by NASA, which really fascinates me. I particularly enjoy viewing the space images captured by the Hubble telescope.
Hannah: INSPIRE hosts several opportunities to connect with NASA, including LiveChats and Virtual Stem Experiences with NASA experts. While both of these events are incredible and very informative, the best way INSPIRE connected me personally with NASA was through the Space Habitat Innovation Challenge. I was honored to be a member of the winning team in that competition, and as a reward, INSPIRE invited me to a VIP tour of NASA's Johnson Space Center. The trip was amazing. INSPIRE provided me with direct, first-person contact with real NASA employees at Johnson. The fantastic experience of meeting and talking with professionals in the field solidified my dream of being an engineer. Not only does INSPIRE allow me to listen to professionals, the Online Learning Community actually permitted me to meet these experts face to face. It was an honor that will encourage and inspire me for the rest of my life.
Jonathan: NASA INSPIRE is probably my one and only connection - pretty much my lifeline - between NASA and me. I am in this community that offers a ton of advice, information and opportunities and, with just a few clicks of the mouse key, I can discover a lot. INSPIRE has allowed me to participate in competitions such as RealWorld-InWorld and work with people across the country. Without INSPIRE, it would be much more difficult to have any connection whatsoever with NASA, and I would never have learned about RealWorld-InWorld or any other opportunities. In addition, INSPIRE offers exciting live chats about topics such as spinoffs and communication from NASA scientists and engineers.
Lanique: OLC has personally connected me with NASA through creating awareness of the vast diversity of careers. The subject matter experts' passion for their jobs is engaging, educational and inspiring. The community also helped me to have a better understanding of what NASA does outside of space exploration, like studying weather and global warming. The challenges educated me on all types of specialized equipment, from X-ray to infrared, and how their variations assist in interpreting data.
Ricky: The INSPIRE project is unlike any other project that I have laid my eyes on. I thought I would never set foot into a project as magnificent as this. I am surrounded by people that are in the same boat as me, and we are a community of nerds and geeks that strive for NASA. This is basically my second step toward my goal; I was originally going to take my second step in my junior year at an internship, but apparently things have changed since. I really love this project because I can get a feel of what to see and what opportunities are there for me to explore and discover. For me, being in a project like this is just fantastic, and I wouldn't know what I would do without the great helping hand that INSPIRE brings. I connect and synch with this project, and this INSPIRE just puts a smile on my face every Thursday night when I listen to an actual person, whether the person be a scientist, educator, engineer, or our very own Jim Gerard, I am so happy and honored to be in this project.
How has being a member of the INSPIRE OLC increased your participation in STEM experiences?
Casey: I loved working on the RealWorld-InWorld, or RWIW, Engineering Design Challenge the first two years (I can't do everything, so this year I am focusing on the other activities INSPIRE has to offer). The guys on my teams were fantastic to work with. Everyone contributed and worked well together. During the second phase (my freshman year), I really enjoyed learning from and working with Julia Lundrigan, a fourth-year aerospace engineer at Georgia Tech. I have great memories of RWIW and still keep in touch with most of my former team members. In fact, because they were nice people and such hard workers, it made me step up my game (and I'm not a slacker to begin with). I've applied to some programs I would not have known about otherwise and have been considering majors I previously didn't know existed.
Clayton: Being a member of the OLC has greatly increased my experience in STEM-related fields by introducing me to various subjects that are studied by NASA. These subjects could range from looking at a scientific topic such as the physics of the moon, or learning the engineering behind a rocket. The activities challenge me to increase my technical and problem-solving skills. The activities also allow me to work with other like-minded participants in various teams, in which I can help create a product or engineer a design. I enjoy participating in these activities because I have the opportunity to learn something new every week.
Hannah: One of the best aspects of INSPIRE is the amazing opportunities it presents. Through INSPIRE, I participate in many activities that I otherwise would not know about. The RealWorld-InWorld Engineering Design Challenge, or RWIW, is a good example of this. RWIW pushed me to learn new skills in design work as I used the engineering design process to solve the design problem. I had to use and develop skills in engineering to make sure my team's design would work, and I studied science to make sure we met all the criteria. The challenge focused my technology research as I looked at existing systems and materials to make the best product possible. Finally, to check my work and determine if the product truly was feasible, I had to learn new math skills. Perhaps most importantly, RWIW expanded my teamwork skills to new levels. INSPIRE made this all possible. It was through INSPIRE that I learned about and competed in this challenge that taught me so much. INSPIRE has led me to many fantastic experiences in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and I am certain INSPIRE will continue to guide and teach me much more.
Jonathan: Being a member of the OLC has allowed me to become a bigger participant in STEM Experiences because the OLC has allowed me to discover more of what there is. I am able to really be open to ideas, which has helped me think outside the box with INSPIRE, and it gets really exciting. This "outside-the-box" idea really got interesting when I attended a student-driven experience (which was a first by INSPIRE), the INSPIRE UnConference. This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience where a group of students gets a VIP tour of a NASA facility (in this case, the Kennedy Space Center). And all of us had a blast with the challenges we did, such as making thrust supports and programming LEGO Mindstorms robots, which were really cool and fun.
Lanique: The OLC has increased my participation in STEM experiences by exposing me to activities that, while challenging, keep me interested. Some of the activities have us design patches and drawings and build experiments. After my first year in the OLC, it encouraged me to participate in a STEM summer program at Prairieview University. My OLC experience gave me an advantage in my summer program with content and activities.
Ricky: Even though I have never been in a STEM experience, I am now really interested and open to things that involve STEM, such as FIRST Robotics. Being in this OLC has really taught me what is there and what to look out for so I can take and learn from the opportunities, which makes me even more keen to achieve my goals as an engineer.
Of what value has the OLC been to you, and why would you recommend that others join, based on what you have received?
Casey: I love the people I've met here; everyone is so willing to share and help others. It's a great community to be a part of. The OLC also provides weekly challenges - they aren't too difficult, and they are always informative. The discussion board is a great place to ask questions and get information. And then there's my favorite thing about INSPIRE: the weekly LiveChat. I love that they bring in speakers from different fields. (Don't miss Mr. Gerard's holiday chat and movie chat each year!) And if you can't make it live, the chats are archived. There's so much to do - everyone is sure to find something they like. In summary, good people, good times!
Clayton: The OLC has given me valuable learning experiences, as well as connections to other participants. Its activities increase knowledge of STEM-related fields and promote critical thinking skills. I would greatly recommend the OLC to other students because this can propel those who want to major in STEM careers. The OLC is a friendly environment with many participants who likely want to achieve the same goal. Students will be able to communicate with others from across the country. … I would strongly recommend that those who want to get a job in NASA join the OLC because it will give visual and hands-on experiences. I can certainly predict that student participants will have a phenomenal experience.
Hannah: I have been a member of INSPIRE for three years, and the value given to me cannot be measured. It is so vast, so encompassing, that it defies calculation. INSPIRE has introduced me to so many opportunities, including design challenges, LiveChats with experts, models of spacecraft, science activities and so much more. When I recommend INSPIRE to others, I tell them about the interactive online lectures by subject experts, the creative activities, the STEM competitions and the community of interested students. INSPIRE is the congregation place for bright young minds; it encourages me in my quest for knowledge, and I am sure it will do the same for many other students now and in the future.
Jonathan: Probably the most important value for me is the fact that I have left my cocoon and decided to be more open. With NASA INSPIRE, there is a large freedom of ideas, thoughts, etc., and the freedom to start discussions with others. There are many interesting discussions where we can go from how cold the weather is in New York to laser beams in space, to the effects of Super Storm Sandy in the Eastern Seaboard. My creativity has just blossomed with INSPIRE, and it has helped me think of bigger ideas.
I would recommend INSPIRE because it's the opportunity that you receive that makes it special. People are given chances to speak out about what's happening in their school or about something new happening at NASA. Everyone is given the chance to work with others across the nation, which can be great and can make for an interesting conversation.
Lanique: OLC is priceless. It made me realize how fun science and math can be - to participate not for a grade but because of genuine interest. There are so many ways to learn but also interact with other students, faculty and experts who share the same interests.
Ricky: I value the fact that I am in this project in the first place. I knew this would be a tough project to join, and this year, it was. I value the opportunities that are open in this project and the education that we get from this project, like hearing people that work at NASA live, and then asking them questions about the topic that they were representing. I would totally tell my friends to join, since they are also aspiring to be engineers. I can honestly say that they have more potential to have a greater start than me if they join INSPIRE. I have received so much experience about NASA and the people that work there, so really, INSPIRE is the #1 place to learn, communicate, explore and develop ideas about being in a STEM career. I really enjoy being in this project, surrounded by a community of aspiring people following careers in STEM. It is just awesome!
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