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NASA offering online space education for Alaskans

Posted: June 19, 2013 - 8:46pm  |  Updated: June 20, 2013 - 12:12am

Elementary school students looking for an outer-planetary experience are being offered the opportunity to learn more in the subjects of science, technology and engineering through a program offered by NASA mentors.

Alaskan students in remote, secluded areas can now take advantage of a mentor program via Internet chats through Skype or Google Hangouts. Students in grades five through eight can apply for acceptance into the extracurricular activity.

“We hope students walk away with inspiration to keep studying math and science in school. We hope they take the challenging honors and AP classes when the time comes to choose them,” Mamta Nagaraja, one of the program mentors, said. “And we hope this relevance of learning stays with them as they progress through school. We find that students are excited to have their very own mentor who works at NASA.”

Along with 100 other mentors, also NASA employees, Nagaraja has an extensive background in mentoring and has been employed at NASA since she herself was in college.

The experience hopes to educate younger students in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math as part of NASA’s STEM program.

As part of the five-week program, students will participate in lessons such as building a Wright Brothers airplane, making a robot hand, designing a space mission to an interstellar object, and more.

“[Students] will learn the most from being able to ask as many questions as they want,” Nagaraja said. “I find that kids in that age will ask as many questions as they are allowed to, and that often facilitates the most learning.”

Last year, the program accepted 22 students throughout the country and hopes to accept as many as 100 this year.

Of the unique opportunity that students here now have to learn about subjects normally not offered in a tradional school setting, Nagaraja added, “We hope students in Alaska will take the opportunity.”

Interested students can apply online by going to http://women.nasa.gov/nasagirls and, though deceiving, that URL is for both girls and boys.

• Contact reporter Kenneth Rosen at 523-2250 or at kenneth.rosen@juneauempire.com.

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