HAYS - A new grant from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration will fund the development of new Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) educator workshops in Fort Hays State University’s College of Education.
The grant proposal submitted by Dr. Paul Adams, dean of the College of Education, is titled “High-Altitude Balloon Launch System to Support Teacher and Student Research.” It was accepted by NASA, and the $14,722 in grant funding will support FHSU’s efforts as a member of the NASA Kansas Space Grant Consortium teacher workshop program. NASA is especially interested in helping bring NASA-relevant material and content into middle school classrooms. This material aligns well with an ongoing effort in Kansas K-12 education to integrate curriculum across the sciences. It brings in aspects of engineering while promoting student’s ability to ask questions and design investigations to answer those questions. NASA sponsorship of this project through the Kansas NASA Space Grant also aims at generating student interest at an early age in future career opportunities in the sciences.
An undeniable “fun factor” makes participation in this kind of applied research even more appealing to K-12 teachers and students.
“High altitude balloons as a research tool have the ‘cool’ factor of being something that cannot be explored in the classroom. When we fly up to 100,000 feet (over 18 miles high), we enter a part of our world outside our experience – very low pressure, extreme cold temperatures, cosmic radiation and so much more,” Adams said. “And the excitement and innovation of preparing, flying and recovering something flown to near space to answer a question is an achievement for every student involved.”
Dr. Adams’ experience with high-altitude balloon research began in 2011 as a partnership with FHSU physics professor Dr. Jack Maseberg, but his passion for space exploration pre-dates that collaboration.
“I have always wanted to explore space – high altitude ballooning is a step in that direction,” Adams said. “Since that time, I have worked with high school age students in our Kansas Academy of Math and Science, other faculty and school groups to conduct investigations that can only happen at the edge of space.”
Workshops currently under development cover a broad spectrum of topics, including:
• GLOBE Weather, a workshop for middle school teachers on collecting and using data to teach weather.
• OpenSciEd, an open education resource available to middle and high school teachers.
• Operation Primary Physical Science that will help elementary teachers develop confi-dence and skill in teaching science.
• Modeling Instruction in Physics and Chemistry for middle and high school teachers.
• Matter and Energy for Growth and Activity for middle and high school biology.
More information is available at www.fhsu.edu/smei/high-altitude-balloon/index.