A Worcester Prep student and four educators recently took advantage of one-of-a-kind opportunities at the neighboring National Aeronautics and Space Administration facility in Wallops Island, Va. NASA is responsible for the civilian space program as well as aeronautics and aerospace research.
Senior Austin Taylor completed a summer internship at NASA. Teachers Shari McCormick, Erin Shimko and Sara Timmons, and Sandy Taylor, school librarian, attended an Educator Professional Development Workshop.
With an end goal of landing an engineering job at NASA, Taylor was one of 30 students chosen for an internship out of thousands of applicants. He was given hands-on learning experiences such as building robots and navigating them using GPS coordinates, as well as having behind-the-scenes access to NASA's aerospace industry. A Virginia native, Taylor is very invested in his community and hopes to remain there in future years. In addition to his rigorous studies, he has managed to accumulate more than 190 volunteer hours at the Firefighter Academy, earning certificates in Firefighter I and II, and Hazmat. Following graduation, he plans to earn an electrical engineering degree and work at NASA.
Worcester Prep teachers have partnered with NASA over the years in countless capacities from field trips to video conferencing.
"NASA is truly a hidden treasure," said Taylor. "It is a link to so many unique resources that assist teachers by incorporating the principles of STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] into tangible projects."
McCormick said, "Working with NASA lets students become part of a work team where they can see themselves in the bigger picture as a future career."
All the teachers walked away from the workshop with many great project ideas. Timmons plans to have her students model the same project the teachers did at the workshop. They will plan, build, test and revise a model satellite to orbit the moon.
Timmons said, "We will then map and follow the space station through the NASA International Space Station homepage and incorporate NASA lesson plans with our fifth-grade science rocketry unit."
She will be off to a great start thanks to NASA's having given each teacher a Beginning Engineering, Science and Technology Kit valued at $400 to share with their students.
"In addition to the NASA kit, I walked away with the important lesson to give children more time to plan and brainstorm ideas before giving them the parameters of a project," said Shimko.