NASA summer 2013 press release

Tesica Starkey, Guest Writer

 Lounging by the pool (or in front of the TV), reading for fun (or avoiding books altogether), catching up with friends (or on sleep)—these are all typical summertime activities for college students. In contrast, four Southern Nazarene University science students experienced extraordinary summers by participating in NASA Space Grant summer programs.

   Erin Velders and Rachel Rindom were selected to complete the Geospatial Summer Fellowship Program, a program designed to allow students to encounter geospatial information science in a higher education context through interactive, hands-on learning. Participants conducted research and prepared to present it at the Geospatial Summer Fellowship Symposium, which will be held at the University of Oklahoma this fall. Applicants from eight Oklahoma NASA Space Grant institutions are reviewed competitively and awarded a stipend for participation.

   This summer, students learned to work with spatial analysis software, called ArcGIS, before applying the new information to their areas of interest. Rindom, a sophomore biology-chemistry major, examined the different ways ArcGIS can be used in the study of epidemiology. She credited SNU classes for her academic preparedness.

   “My math and science classes were helpful in that they prepared me for a more technical/multi-disciplinary project. With our ArcGIS lessons we had to think on more than one level, and the SNU math/science classes definitely helped with that.”

   Velders, a senior science education major, also applied her new knowledge of ArcGIS to her field of interest, choosing to investigate demographic factors that can influence ACT scores, like median household income and crime rate. Velders values the opportunity to work with new technology and ideas and said the following in an interview:

   “I really learned a lot about GIS in this fellowship – especially how versatile GIS is. You can use GIS with just about anything, so that makes it a great tool for a wide range of businesses, schools and the state.”

   Benjamin Siems and Rachel Atnip participated in the Mission to Planet Earth summer teacher workshop, a second NASA Space Grant program. The goal of this workshop is to prepare future elementary and secondary education teachers to effectively and engagingly impart aerospace content in the classroom. Upon completion of the workshop, students travel to Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX to attend informational seminars concerning the importance of teaching aerospace in schools.

   Siems admits that initially he had no idea what to expect of the workshop but quickly became comfortable because “the director was full of energy and a superb teacher . . . Each guest speaker was excellent and the abundance of hands-on activities enabled me to truly grasp the concept of aerospace education.” The combination of his summer experience and his strong math and science classes at SNU have prepared Siems to make the most out of his upcoming visit to Johnson Space Center.

   Summer experiences like these NASA Space Grant programs allow SNU students to bolster their CVs with both academic and hands-on experience, making them better candidates for field or graduate work. For more information regarding future opportunities, contact Dr. Nicholas Zoller, NASA Space Grant Institutional Representative and Assistant Professor of Mathematics at SNU.