Education

Columbus State partnership awarded $1.25M NASA grant

Visitors to the Columbus State University Coca-Cola Space Science Center play with model Mars rovers in this undated photo.
Visitors to the Columbus State University Coca-Cola Space Science Center play with model Mars rovers in this undated photo. Columbus State University

Columbus State University’s Coca-Cola Space Science Center is one of four sites in a partnership that has been awarded a $1.25 million NASA Museum Alliance Grant to teach high school students how to design and manufacture vehicles that could explore Mars.

The other sites partnering with NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in the Innovation Mars Exploration Education and Technology program (IMEET) are the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, the Museum of Aviation Education Center in Warner Robins and the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium in West Palm Beach. The Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex in Titusville, Fla., will lead the IMEET project, and Georgia Tech will develop the curriculum, CSU announced in a news release.

Through the IMEET program, high school students from Muscogee County and across the nation will spend two weeks during the next three summers learning to be aerospace engineers as they use 3D printing technology to create Mars rovers and helicopters, CSU said in the release.

IMEET is part of the effort to land on Mars, which SpaceX chief executive officer Elon Musk predicted will happen by 2025, said CSU astronomy Shawn Cruzen, director of the Coca-Cola Space Science Center.

“It may seem like science fiction, but these are the steps that are being taken -- by NASA, by Musk, by our friends from Georgia Tech and by this center -- to improve our capabilities for space exploration,” Cruzen said in the release. “This grant will help prepare our students for a world we’ve only just imagined.”

The grant also will enable the CSU center to host workshops for area teachers to improve their instruction in the subject areas known as STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).

“As one of the only science education centers in the nation based solely on space exploration,” Cruzen said, “we are uniquely positioned to disseminate knowledge amongst the STEM community and increase youth engagement in the space sciences.”

Columbus State University’s Coca-Cola Space Science Center is one of four sites in a partnership that has been awarded a $1.25 million NASA Museum Alliance Grant to teach high school students how to design and manufacture vehicles that could explore Mars.

The other sites partnering with NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in the Innovation Mars Exploration Education and Technology program (IMEET) are Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, the Museum of Aviation Education Center in Warner Robins and the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium in West Palm Beach. The Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex will lead the IMEET project, and Georgia Tech will develop the curriculum.

Through the IMEET program, high school students from Muscogee County and across the nation will spend two weeks during the next three summers learning to be aerospace engineers as they use 3-D printing technology to create Mars rovers and helicopters, CSU announced in a news release Monday.

IMEET is part of the effort to land on Mars, which SpaceX chief executive officer Elon Musk predicted will happen by 2025, said CSU astronomy Shawn Cruzen, director of the Coca-Cola Space Science Center.

“It may seem like science fiction, but these are the steps that are being taken -- by NASA, by Musk, by our friends from Georgia Tech and by this center -- to improve our capabilities for space exploration,” Cruzen said in the release. “This grant will help prepare our students for a world we’ve only just imagined.”

The grant also will enable the CSU center to host workshops for area teachers to improve their instruction in the subject areas known as STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).

“As one of the only science education centers in the nation based solely on space exploration,” Cruzen said, “we are uniquely positioned to disseminate knowledge amongst the STEM community and increase youth engagement in the space sciences.”

In an email to the Ledger-Enquirer, Cruzen said it’s too early to know all the details of the program, but CSU’s $150,000 share of the grant will enable it to instruct 25 students and 15 teachers per year during the next three years in the Muscogee County School District.

“We will be working with our partners at MCSD to identify participating students and teachers for year one, the pilot year,” Cruzen told the L-E. “The grant is designed to establish a long-term, sustainable summer program, which will be open to a broader base of future participants once established. At such future time, registration would be handled through CCSSC.”

The IMEET partnership involving CSU is one of nine proposals NASA selected out of 73 applications for grants ranging from $420,000 to $1.25 million, Cruzen said.

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