By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Newspaper
STILLWATER, OK – A $25 million grant has been awarded to the Oklahoma State University College of Education and its partner organizations by the NASA Johnson Space Center’s Office of Education. NASA provides experiential learning opportunities and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) challenges to engage the public in NASA’s mission.
The five-year grant will fund a variety of STEM activities for under-represented students from kindergarten through 12, and higher education. The allocation is distributed across the nation, including eight states in the central U.S.
This grant is the latest award received by OSU’s College of Education from the NASA STEM Pathway Activities-Consortium for Education, or NSPACE. Since 1968, OSU has worked continuously on NASA Education Projects to further its students interests in space and science learning.
“This highlights our expertise in instructional design and facilitating projects for increasing student participation in STEM,” said Dr. John Romans, dean of the College of Education. “We’re a national leader in this.”
According to a press release, OSU is the nation’s leading university in activities supporting NASA’s goal to “improve STEM instruction; increase youth and public engagement in STEM; enhance the STEM experience of undergraduate students; better serve historically underrepresented groups in STEM fields; and design education for a needed STEM workforce.”
“NASA has confidence in Oklahoma State University to implement their programs,” said Dr. Steven Marks, director for OSU’s NASA Education Projects, and principal investigator for the NSPACE grant. “Their emphasis has been to get more minorities involved in STEM. It’s a national priority and a priority of Oklahoma State.”
Dr. Marks will be assisted by NSPACE co-investigator Dr. Susan Stansberry.
The OSU College of Education has worked with NASA Centers across the country on NASA Education Projects, including Teacher in Space and Teaching from Space, Explorer Schools, Digital Learning Network and INSPIRE.
The focus of OSU’s efforts in this field is to create curriculum support materials and share NASA’s STEM research with educators and students across the country. The work is also to inspire the next generation of STEM professionals and NASA employees.
For this NSPACE project, the OSU College of Education will incorporate the skills and resources of 13 institutions within the Texas A&M University System, Langston University, OSU’s Center for Sovereign Nations, Northern Oklahoma College, the Oklahoma 4-H Foundation and the Technology for Learning Consortium.
Over the years, the OSU Research Foundation has assisted in facilitating these programs and provided proposal development assistance for this award.
The College of Education will use NASA funding to support STEM activities at the Johnson Space Center for K-12 students, educators, and community college and undergraduate students. Under the leadership of assistant director Richard Adams, OSU will assign a team of education specialists that will implement the NSPACE program at the center.
Project activities will involve both online and onsite learning experiences at the center in Houston, as well as the STEM on Station program for students to learn about the International Space Station and human space exploration.
Students will benefit from the NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars program, an interactive online learning opportunity for students culminated by a three-day hands on experience at NASA, and Microgravity University. While there, educators and students are given the opportunity to visit the space center and conduct experiments in a weightless environment.
“The onsite experience has been great for me personally,” said one student. “In classes or in life you feel held back by things and even just being a female in the engineering field…. maybe people even expect less. Coming here and seeing all the female engineers and people at NASA telling me how great I can be…I think that was my favorite part. Leaving here I’m so much more confident in what I’m about to do with my life.”
OSU has more than 36,000 students attending its five-campus system and more than 25,000 on its combined Stillwater and Tulsa campuses, including students from all 50 states and around 120 nations
OSU Vice President for Research Kenneth Sewell said, “Oklahoma State University is the trusted overseer of this entire array of programs because NASA has traditionally connected with our known space education expertise.”