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Supercharged Science Workshop

IDEA program brings rocket scientist, engineer to five Alaska cities for youth science education

Posted: Sunday, February 08, 2009

This week, Aurora Lipper and her Supercharged Science team will bring more than 400 pounds of rockets, robots and lasers to Fairbanks, Wasilla, Soldotna, Anchorage and Juneau for kids, ages 7-18, to experiment with during Alaska's first-ever Supercharged Science Workshop.

Courtesy Of Aurora Lipper
Courtesy Of Aurora Lipper

"We're going to be ... performing live rocketry shows and teaching kids how to make robots and laser light shows - all in one day," Lipper said. "My primary goal with these workshops is to create an outstanding learning experience for the kids. Think of me as the bridge between the scientific community and real world most of us live in."

Lipper, whose titles include mechanical engineer, airplane pilot, astronomer, university engineering instructor and rocket scientist, said she started working at NASA when she was 16.

"I traded a day of high school for a day working at NASA," she said, "(I) loved what I did there and was directed by my mentors there to go into the ME field at Cal Poly."

One of the youngest instructors in California Polytechnic State University's engineering department, Lipper started teaching in 1996. Since then, she has taught a plethora of science classes from elementary to university levels. She started Supercharged Science's annual Science Camp and Robocamp in 1999.

"When I saw how kids were being taught science, I realized that I'd be bored, too!" she said. "That's when I decided to do something about it."

Lucky for Alaska, Lipper's workshops and camps were such a hit that Interior Distance Education in Alaska (IDEA), a homeschool support program of the Galena City School District, opted to bring Supercharged Science from San Luis Obispo, Calif., to five of our cities.

"We are very excited to have Supercharged Science coming to Juneau," said Carol Habeger, a teacher and field representative for the Southeast IDEA program in Juneau. "This is an opportunity to get students excited about science and to give parents a way to be able to do more experiments at home."

According to Habeger, Juneau's schedule will include blasting rockets, wiring circuits to build a burglar alarm, building robots, working with lasers to create a laser light show and taking an intergalactic space tour.

"After a wild day with us, (the kids will) run home armed with homemade robots, burglar alarms, toilet paper radios (that really work) and more," Lipper said. "It's really incredible - and wonderful. But we're only going to be in your area for one day, so don't miss out!"

Unfortunately, Juneau's workshop, to be held Friday at the Juneau Christian Center gym, is full, but those interested in such science activities can visit Supercharged Science online to read about their science workshops and camps. Lipper also mentioned that Supercharged has a new Web site on how to turn a cool project into a science fair project: www.awesomescienceprojects.com/sciencekits.htm.

Lipper is excited to visit Alaska for the first time, sharing her fervor for science with future scientists.

"People have no idea what they are in for, so it's always great to see their reaction when they complete the workshop," she said. "(I enjoy) the way the kids light up when they understand something for the first time. Engineering is a place where there are lots of holes in their education so there are lots of areas for potential for learning."

Lipper's hope for future scientists is to "change the course of their lives by just a tiny fraction now, which propagates to a large shift in the long run."

"We've had 9-year-olds run through our program, turn around and teach a class to high school students," she boasted. "We've had kids in 'juvy' hall go through our programs, and years later, we hear they've enrolled in MIT in engineering. The stuff we do and the way we do it really works."

• Contact Neighbors editor Kim Andree at 523-2272 or kimberly.andree@juneauempire.com.



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