Western Washington University has been awarded a new five-year, $190,000 grant from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to help train the next generation of science and math teachers as well as promote summer research opportunities for students who aspire to careers in the aerospace industry or space science.
“In the past we have used this grant to support aspiring teachers to engage in summer research,” said Emily Borda, the director of Western’s Science, Math and Technology Education (SMATE) program. “In this grant cycle, we are adding an aerospace research component to support other STEM majors as well, doubling the number of students we can support.”
WWU Associate Professor of Geology Melissa Rice, who is co-investigator on the grant, said the two groups will come together at the end of each summer to build a K-12 outreach project blending the two disciplines.
“It could be a planetarium show for a summer camp, for example,” Rice said. “But bringing the teaching students and the science students together on a project was an important part of our proposal.”
Borda said having Rice, who is part of NASA’s Mars rover science team, as part of the grant will allow for avenues of approach for the students who benefit from the funding.
“That was a big part of our motivation, as we have more capacity to help students engage in this kind of research with Melissa here,” Borda said.
Rice added that all of the summer research grant opportunities for students must be done in conjunction with a faculty mentor, and be in line with NASA’s science goals.
“Whether it is an engineering student wanting to investigate new materials to be used in space exploration, an astronomy student doing research that utilizes NASA data, or a geology student working on a project to better understand the surfaces of the planets in our solar system, they all have to tie in with NASA’s goals, too,” Rice said.
Borda said they will be putting a call out for student research proposals in winter quarter with the proposals being due in March (see attached PDF application document below).
For more information on the new NASA grant, contact Emily Borda, director of Western’s Science, Math and Technology Education program, at Emily.firstname.lastname@example.org.