Washington NASA Space Grant Consortium

Expanding Frontiers Fall/Winter 2001

Expanding Frontiers is a publication of Washington NASA Space Grant Consortium. To join our mailing list, please send us an e-mail with your request.

Table of Contents:

Mini-grants launch hands-on learning

Valley View student

Mick O'Keefe records basic data about native plantings being restored to the grounds of Valley View Alternative Elementary in SeaTac.

Creating a natural habitat to lure salamanders back onto the grounds of Valley View Alternative Elementary in SeaTac might not seem like space science, but look again.

Jan Sherwood's project gave her students in grades four through six a chance to apply their math skills to real life problems and conduct their own scientific investigations the same way NASA scientists tackle problems in space.

Last year, Washington NASA Space Grant awarded mini-grants to Jan Sherwood and 34 other teachers to help them give their students learning experiences they might not normally enjoy.

"I'm very impressed with the creativity that the teachers exhibit in formulating ideas for their mini-grant proposals," says Dr. Julie Lutz, the program's associate director. "Their proposals show a real commitment to having their students do an in-depth project that will enhance their understanding of how science is done."

Applications for Space Grant's 2002 mini-grants are now available in print and online at the Space Grant Web site. This year, the amount of the award has increased to $400 per applicant. With $400 in matching funds, each teacher has an average of up to $800 per project.

The mini-grant program is open to K-12 teachers in public and private schools across the state, as well as certified home-school teachers. In the past, Space Grant has funded projects in astronomy, rocketry, weather and ecological systems.

Orchard Prairie student

Students at Orchard Prairie School in Spokane explore Newton's laws of motion by testing their prototypes for amusement park rides

Teacher Edward McCarthy used his students' interest in the opening of a new ride at the Silverwood Theme Park as a springboard for discussion of Newton's three laws of motion.

"Using simple materials, students built ramps, tracks and ball loops to understand speed, acceleration and friction," McCarthy says. "They set up pendulums and whirligigs to investigate circular motion and transformation of energy."

Student teams at Odle Middle School in Bellevue built 24 constellation models ablaze in fiber optic lights. Six of the students' projects were displayed at the Bellevue Schools Foundation luncheon in June.

Grants must be matched one-to-one with nonfederal funds. Money may come from other grants, parent or class fundraisers, or local or district funds. Teachers often work with other community volunteers to complete their projects. Donations of time do not contribute to the matching requirement.

Volunteers from the Master Gardeners program in Chehalis helped Deena Mauerman's students at R.E. Bennett Elementary develop and maintain a science discovery garden. Mauerman says her second and third grade students were surprised to learn that 80 percent of the food we eat is comes from seeds.

Mauerman used mini-grant funds to purchase a stereo dissecting microscope, slides and dissecting sets for the nine-week study so her students could also explore plants at the cellular level.

"Receiving a mini-grant can help a teacher buy science equipment that can be used for many years," Dr. Lutz says. "We also get proposals that feature sharing equipment among several classrooms."

Mini-grants may also be used for professional development experiences, but they cannot be used to cover substitute teacher costs. The deadline for applications is Nov. 26.

NASA Academy gives college students a taste for the research life

Paul Blainey

Paul Blainey

The high point of Paul Blainey's NASA Academy experience last summer was the series of dinner lectures, but it was the company not the food that riveted his interest.

"The speakers would make an excellent 'who's who in astrobiology' list," he says, with guests ranging from NASA scientists and corporate executives to a Nobel laureate.

"What is wonderful about the lecture series is how personal the format is. The speaker and students eat together and make introductions before the lecture begins."

With only 13 undergraduates, the Academy dinners often became lively discussions that provided students with an intimate look at the economics and politics of the field as well as the science.

The 10-week astrobiology program, held at Ames Research Center in California, is designed to build leadership skills and provides research experience to give college students a glimpse of the aerospace industry as a whole.

Paul, who graduated from the UW in March with double majors in chemistry and mathematics, spent part of his time on an individual project aimed at developing a new technique to detect low levels of metabolism in microbes.

The rest was spent on a group project that looked at the effects of a reduced pressure environment on iron-reducing Shewanella bacteria. The team brought together students from a variety of disciplines, everything from neuroscience and ecology to physics, Paul says. The group's scientific diversity helped broaden his perspective as a scientist.

In September Paul began studying for his doctorate in chemistry at Harvard University.

Annual reception honors scholars, fellows and summer researchers

Patrick Cimino

Patrick Cimino crushes samples from the carbonate-based hydrothermal vent field last winter for DNA testing of the microorganisms.

While many undergraduates were celebrating the long Labor Day weekend, University of Washington junior Jason Graff was heading back from a month at sea researching a new species of phytoplankton.

Jason is one of 55 students who took part in Washington Space Grant's Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP).

In Jason's case, the program included a chance to spend four weeks working aboard a ship in the Bering Sea gathering samples and living side by side with Russian and American scientists.

"If you don't go outside the classroom, you miss out on the experience of doing research in the real word," says the oceanography major. "And it's fun."

SURP matches UW faculty or research scientists with undergraduates. Research projects range from applied physics to zoology, and often given undergraduates their first taste of professional recognition. Each student also receives a stipend.

"When I hear SURP students talk about their projects, I'm struck by the depth of understanding that they develop in a relatively short period of time, and by the confidence they gain from being treated as a colleague," says Space Grant Director Dr. Janice DeCosmo.

Although first priority is given to Space Grant scholars and UW enrollees, other students may be admitted on a space available basis. Brooke Ferguson, a premed major from the University of Southern California, spent her summer working in the nanotechnology laboratory. Brooke says nanoscale devices allow for the creation of materials on a single molecule level, offering savings in mass and energy consumption.

SURP is co-sponsored by the Mary Gates Endowment for Students through the Office of Undergraduate Education.

Students will present posters of their work Oct. 3 at the Washington Space Grant Program Scholarship Reception and Poster Exhibit in the HUB West Ballroom on UW's Seattle campus.

The reception also honors incoming Space Grant scholars and graduate fellows.

This year, Space Grant awarded new UW scholarships to 19 new freshmen and six community college transfer students, as well as four fellowships to graduate students.

New student advisor brings fresh ideas and campus experience

Lupine Miller

Lupine Miller joined Washington NASA Space Grant in August as the consortium's new student programs coordinator at the University of Washington.

Lupine Miller joined Washington NASA Space Grant in August as the consortium's new student programs coordinator at the University of Washington.

The UW alumna says she is looking forward to meeting with the Space Grant scholars and learning more about the research programs available to undergraduates.

"These programs provide such an opportunity for students to get an early foot in the door on research projects," she says.

Lupine is fluent in Spanish and served as an advisor in Spanish and Portuguese Studies for more than four years.

As assistant director of The Northwest Cadiz Program, she spent a quarter in Spain helping students in the foreign study program navigate life overseas - a task not unlike her work with scholars here.

Lupine is currently pursuing a master's degree in library and information science. In her spare time, she enjoys baking, reading and travel.

Seattle Central Community College awards five SG scholarships

Lupine Miller

Associate Director Dr. Julie Lutz with Washington Space Grant scholars Marc Hungerford, Myla Flores and Lorn Richey.

Space Grant scholars at Seattle Central Community College have overcome a wealth of challenges from learning disabilities to poverty in their pursuit of a college education.

"For our students, college isn't a given," says Susan Bean, director of the SCCC Foundation. "It is a daunting decision, requiring sacrifice and hard work."

This year, five Space Grant scholarships of $1,800 each were awarded to talented community college students.

Lorn Richey says he was always fascinated by science, but his childhood struggles with math led him to be labeled as learning disabled. "The sad fact is that when I graduated from high school I could not even multiply, and my anxiety toward math had turned to fear and hatred," he says.

Despite his math problems, he showed a great flare for art. The self-taught filmmaker worked on a series of PBS educational documentaries and other independent projects. Like many artists, he struggled financially. In his late 30s and recently married, he decided to return to school and pursue a degree in electrical engineering.

"I began at the bottom, spending the summer of 1999 with flashcards and children's math books," he says. Last summer, he took his first calculus class.

Lorn says his goal is to work in the field of communication technology, and to help others overcome their frustrations with mathematics.

Duc Tran's father nurtured his passion for computers from childhood. Duc plans to eventually pursue a degree in electrical engineering at the University of Washington. When he graduates, he will be the first in his family to complete a four-year degree.

Myla Flores enrolled in 18 credits at Seattle Central Community Center while working 15 hours a week. A role model to her nine siblings and volunteer with Team Read, she also finds time to tutor a third grader at Thurgood Marshall Elementary School twice a week. She also volunteers at several day care centers. Her goal is to become a teacher.

Fang Lei came to Coeur D'Alene, Idaho, from Beijing as a high school student. Her goal is to earn a degree in a computer-related field. "This award makes me feel more confident about my future," she says.

Eric Hungerford , a Running Start student and recent graduate of Roosevelt High School, plans to finish his associate degree and transfer to a four-year college where he can major in electrical engineering.

Eric's interest in computers and technology began in middle school. He not only volunteered to set up and maintain the lab's network and computers throughout the building, but he also helped to train teachers and students in using computers.

He worked with artist Trimpin , helping build the robotics and electronic circuits in the Experience Music Project's guitar sculpture, "If VI was IX." He also helped prepare a performance for Bumbershoot last year called 'Klangflotte,' a MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface)-controlled mechanical band on rickshaws.

"The job assists more than just financially," he says. "It has encouraged me to expand my interests into fields I was previously uninterested in, such as music."

SG Scholars' Achievements

Janelle Taves received her bachelor degree in Chemistry this summer and is planning to pursue a doctorate in inorganic chemistry.

David Dorwin , computer engineering major, graduated and started work as a software engineer with the Intel Corporation in Dupont, Wash.

Misty Betz spent the summer working on infrared and submillimeter galaxy studies at Cornell University.

Senior Cathy Plesko spent her summer working as an astronomy intern at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Cathy plans to graduate next spring with a double major in astronomy and physics.

Volcano workshop for teachers makes science learning a blast

sheeted dike

Teacher Alex Koerger and instructor Allan Treiman, a planetary geochemist, chip samples from an exposure of sheeted dikes in the Josephine Ophiolite.

This summer, 20 middle and high school teachers got a hands-on opportunity to explore the science of volcanoes here and on our neighboring planets.

The group - led by planetary scientists from the UW and the Lunar and Planetary Institute of Houston - studied Mount Rainier, tromped the pumice plain at Mount St. Helens and explored the obsidian flows at Newberry Monument in Oregon.

The 1,500-mile journey gave teachers a chance to see how the geology of the Northwest relates to discoveries made on the Moon, Venus, Mars and Io.

The chance to visit actual sites and clear up popular misconceptions with scientists in the field ranked high with the participants. "I love learning in this way, as would most students if they had a choice," one teacher said later.

A workshop outline, along with photos and hot links to relevant Web sites, is posted on the Space Grant Site.


Visit the SG/ ERC booth at WSTA

Looking for a new activity to help bring the excitement of space travel into the classroom? Want the perfect poster to explain the origin of stars to your students?

Visit the Washington Space Grant/NASA Educator Resource Center booth at the Washington Science Teachers Association conference Nov. 1-3 in Yakima.

The booth will offer a sample of the free and low-cost materials such as curriculum, lithographs and more available through the NASA Educator Resource Center.

Astronomer and ERC Director Dr. Julie Lutz and other staff will be on hand to answer questions. Dr. Lutz will also teach two workshops on ways to bring earth science and our Solar System into the classroom.

A third workshop will give teachers step-by-step guidance in how to apply for a Space Grant mini-grant.

Free NASA lessons posted weekly

NASAexplores provides free weekly K-12 educational articles and lesson plans on current NASA projects. Materials can be printed or downloaded. The curriculum resources also meet national education standards. Visit NASAexplores at http://NASAexplores.com/cgi-bin/index.pl

Women in Science essay contest

For its 30th anniversary, the Association for Women in Science is asking high school students and undergraduates to envision science in the 21st century and women's roles in the field. The essay contest carries cash prizes (first place, $150) and publication in the AWIS magazine.

Applications must be postmarked Nov. 9, 2001. For complete information, go the AWIS Web site:


Passport TV shows focus on Mars

"Passport to Knowledge," public television's longest-running series of interactive learning adventures, will again focus on the Odyssey mission to Mars for the 2001-2002 school year.

Live From Mars 2001 airs on Oct. 30, just days after Odyssey reaches Mars orbit. Students will be able communicate with NASA researchers in real time.

A second show, Live from Mars 2002, airs March 19.

For more information and classroom materials, go to