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NASA Inspires, Encourages Ohio Students
Eighth-grader Demetrius is a talented artist with a knack for science. Someday, he wants to design a spacecraft for NASA. Edward, a science fair champion who loves to cook, says he could make mouth-watering space food.

In the next decade, Demetrius, Edward and their classmates could play important roles in sending humans to the moon and eventually Mars. That was the message of the day when NASA officials visited the Alpha School of Excellence for Boys in Youngstown, Ohio, to kick off a new partnership.

Woodrow Whitlow at podiumImage right: NASA Glenn Research Center's Director, Dr. Woodrow Whitlow, talks to students at the Explorer School opening event for the Alpha School of Excellence. Credit: NASA

As a NASA Explorer School, the middle school will work with staff members at the NASA Glenn Research Center to engage students in science, technology and mathematics. Over the next three years, NASA will provide classroom resources, educator training and opportunities for students to get involved in NASA missions and research.

At the kickoff event on Feb. 15, Astronaut Roger Crouch, Deputy Associate Administrator for Program Integration W. Michael Hawes, and NASA Glenn Research Center Director Woodrow Whitlow emphasized the diversity of opportunities available at the agency.

"There is a place for you at NASA -- whether you want to be an engineer, a scientist, an accountant or a lawyer," Dr. Whitlow told the students. "You can work in media relations or be an education specialist….you can even be a center director."

According to Hawes, who helps lead Space Operations at NASA, the students will graduate from college at just the right time to help NASA explore the moon and prepare for missions to Mars. "Being designated as an Explorer School is a sign that you have what it takes," he said.

Crouch, who embarked on his first space shuttle mission at the age of 56, encouraged the students to be persistent in pursuing their dreams. Though he was a successful scientist, colorblindness prevented Crouch from joining the astronaut corps for years. In 1997, his steadfast determination landed him a spot on two shuttle missions.

"You have the resources, you have the whole city behind you," he said. "You have to be persistent and never give up."

Astronaut Roger CrouchImage left: Astronaut Roger Crouch answers questions from the audience after his presentation. Credit: NASA

Throughout the week, NASA welcomed students and community members aboard the Mobile Aerospace Education Laboratory. This traveling trailer operated by the Glenn Research Center features 10 workstations that model real-world challenges in aviation and microgravity science.

Students designed a commercial jet, learned what it's like to live in space, and practiced landing a space shuttle with a flight simulator.

"They loved it," said Craig Frohman, the mobile lab's team lead. "They were having so much fun they didn't even realize they were learning."

The Alpha School was one of 50 new Explorer Schools selected through a competitive process last year. In its third year, the program has 150 schools in 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. NASA aims to bring together educators, administrators and families in an effort to enrich science and math education and to interest students in related fields.

"We'd like to see the Alpha School students motivated to take more math and science classes in high school and to pursue this as a career," said Glenn's Explorer School Project Manager Rob LaSalvia. "We'd really like to see Demetrius, Edward and all of the students at Alpha work for NASA ten years down the road."

Read More:
+ NASA Explorer Schools

Jan Wittry (SGT, Inc.)