Eleven female students attending McBride High School in Long Beach Unified School District took up the challenge of becoming fellows in the Occupy Mars Learning Adventures program offered by the Barboza Space Center.
Due to the STEM focus of McBride High School, students have become familiar with a wide and impressive range of 3D printers, computer numerical control (CNC) machines, powerful computers, computer-assisted design (CAD) software, computer aided engineering (CAE) software and new robotic tools that are updated often. Students familiar with such equipment are often hungry for opportunities to apply their knowledge in creative ways.
The Occupy Mars Learning Adventures is an astronaut preparation program that involves academically and linguistically diverse students in working together on simulated NASA Tiger Teams to solve challenges that are faced by NASA and private space companies attempting to travel to and live on Mars. During the week of July 22nd through July 26th, the Barboza Space Center delivered an individualized space science program curriculum designed for young women who want to become engineers, scientists, and astronauts. We integrated Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards into unique project-based learning experiences that drew on science, technology, engineering, mathematics, arts, design, World and computer languages (STEAMD++).
The Barboza Space Center creates simulations of training for astronauts interested in working on Earth and Mars. An important goal is to offer space science fellowships to promising high school students, 10% of whom are students with special needs. The Center provides uniforms, STEAMD++ materials, books, individualized astronaut tool kits, and project lesson plans. Training materials integrate content from Advanced Placement textbooks and NASA manuals.
Under the tutelage of K-12 educators and professional engineers, participants apply what they have learned to design satellites, robots, science probes, Martian habitats, and rocket payloads.
To measure content learned during the Fellowship week, all students completed Tiger Team pre- and post-testing. In addition, each developed a portfolio including two PowerPoint presentations and an audio podcast related to Mars to be posted to Kids Talk Radio Science. These products contrasted in striking ways from pre-test responses to questions about the planet Mars—a subject about which students originally knew very little. Students demonstrated that they could reverse engineer and reconstruct a rolling Mars rover robot. Their eye-motor coordination was assessed throughout the five days of our program, and results were recorded, along with project notes, in individual lab notebooks begun by students in a previous Fellowship. Students were expected to use legible handwriting and to communicate using Morse code—important skills in the event of a communications emergency.
Our space science Fellowships are designed to inspire students to learn and apply new knowledge, to continue to follow their passion through and beyond post-secondary school, and to understand the critical importance of working collectively. By functioning as Tiger Team members, they trained their knowledge and skills on the tremendous challenges of reaching and building a community on Mars. In doing so, many discovered entirely new areas of interest, and all developed a hunger for more opportunities to explore and create in the future.
To listen to the podcasts created at Super School University as part of the new international STEM and STEAM project-based learning opportunities, check out the links below.
Bob Barboza is an educator, STEM Journalist and the founder of Super School International University and the Barboza Space Center for Science and Engineering Prototyping. As Director of the Barboza Space Center, Bob is excited to get students around the world excited about working together and studying STEM and STEAM project-based learning as they pursue careers in the aerospace industry.