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NASA Grants $1.4 Million to Fund State Space Grant Program

NASA has selected the Virginia Space Grant Consortium (VSGC) to receive a $1.4 million grant for the Virginia Aerospace Science and Technology Scholars program. The funding is one of nine nationwide grants awarded on March 31 by NASA's Office of Education.

VSGC is a statewide coalition of universities, including Old Dominion University, state agencies, NASA Centers, and other partners focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education with a goal of helping to produce the nation's science and technology workforce.

Virginia Aerospace Science and Technology Scholars (VASTS) is a one-semester, interactive, exploration-themed, online course for high school juniors followed by a one-week residential Summer Academy at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton. All expenses are paid for participants. At the Academy, Scholars work side by side with NASA scientists, engineers and technologists to plan a human mission to Mars. The program builds on a model developed by Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

The Academy offers students a real-world, project-based aerospace experience that builds STEM knowledge and skills while exposing students to the range of available aerospace and high tech careers through interactions with NASA career professionals. The program also engages and trains master educators statewide to teach the online course and facilitate the Summer Academy. Students receive college credit for their participation in the course and the Academy.

We are very pleased with this NASA grant that will allow us to expand the statewide reach of the Virginia Aerospace Science and Technology Scholars program and to engage many more students and educators," said Virginia Space Grant Consortium Director Mary Sandy. "This important partnership with NASA Langley Research Center, which also has strong support from aerospace industry and the Commonwealth of Virginia, offers high school juniors from every area of Virginia an outstanding educational opportunity at a time in their lives when important college and career decisions are being made."

VASTS builds on a successful pilot program conducted in 2008 for 48 students. The NASA award will permit 800 Virginia students statewide to participate in the online course and 300 to be selected for participation in a Summer Academy experience over the two-year life of the award. This prestigious program gives students the opportunity to enhance their STEM skills using NASA science as a springboard for investigating future career possibilities.

"The funding awarded by NASA will encourage more Virginia students to pursue careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics areas by providing the skills they will need to actively participate in the future workforce of the Commonwealth and the nation," said Sen. Jim Webb. "I commend the Virginia Space Grant Consortium for undertaking this work, and I believe that further expansion will enhance its ability to reach even greater numbers of Virginia students." Webb concluded.

Applications for the 2009 - 2010 program are due Nov. 6. To learn more about the program, visit www.vasts.spacegrant.org.

This article was posted on: April 1, 2009

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