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STEM Enhancement in Earth Science (SEES): A reimagining of an onsite NASA/TSGC/UTCSR high school internship program

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ASEE 2021 Gulf-Southwest Annual Conference


Waco, Texas

Publication Date

March 24, 2021

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March 24, 2021

End Date

March 26, 2021

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Celena Miller University of Texas Austin - Center for Space Research Orcid 16x16

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Celena Miller is the Senior Outreach Program Coordinator for the Texas Space Grant Consortium in Austin, Texas. She has worked for over twelve years in education. During that time, Celena has worked in the Texas public school system, promoting earth and space education to students, teachers and the community through curriculum, professional development, science nights, and career exploration.

Celena has been recognized for our excellence in science teaching. She was the national recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching in 2014. Since that time, Celena was also recognized as the 2014 HEB Excellence in Education "Rising Star" Recipient, 2014 University of Texas - RGV Outstanding Teacher of the Year, 2015 ATPE Educator of the Year, 2015 Texas Academy of Science - Outstanding Texas Educator, and the 2019 HEB Excellence in Education "Leadership" Recipient. She is a NASA Solar System Ambassador, NASA MAVEN Ambassador, a SCH Space Education Educator Crew Member, a Space Foundation Teacher Liaison, and a Rio Grande Valley Science Association Board Member. Additionally, she also participated in four missions with the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education for the Student Spaceflight Experiment Program to the International Space Station.

She is a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Science Teacher Association of Texas, National Science Teacher Association, Rio Grande Valley Science Association, and NASA Network of States.

Celena received her Bachelor of Science degree and master's at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. She also completed post-graduate work with the NASA Endeavor Science Teaching Certificate Project in STEM Education at Columbia University.

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Margaret Baguio University of Texas at Austin

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Margaret Baguio is the Program Manager for Education and Outreach for NASA's Texas Space Grant Consortium at The University of Texas at Austin's Center for Space Research. She has over 30 years education experience including classroom teaching, as a 4-H and Youth Extension Agent for the Texas Agri-life Extension Service, managed a USDA Science and Literacy grant for underrepresented and underserved youth, and provides space education programs for teachers at students in her current position with Texas Space Grant Consortium. She has a Bachelor of Science degree from Texas State University, post-graduate work at Texas A & M University and a Masters in Education from The University of Houston.

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STEM Enhancement in Earth Science (SEES): A reimagining of an onsite NASA/TSGC/UTCSR high school internship program

Abstract NASA, the Texas Space Grant Consortium, and The University of Texas at Austin Center for Space Research support the STEM Enhancement in Earth Science (SEES) program which provides selected high school students with exposure to Earth and space research. Interns learn how to interpret NASA satellite data while working with scientists and engineers in their chosen area of work. This project addresses the national need to increase the number of high school students, particularly under-represented minorities and those from under-served areas that will pursue STEM college degrees. However, during these unprecedented times, NASA Texas Space Grant Consortium and The University of Texas Center for Space Research had to reimagine our summer camps, camp-ins, and youth collaborative programs to develop virtual and socially distant educational plans due to the COVID-19 effects to “reimagining education for a changing world.”

1. Introduction Education departments from in-classroom and out-of-classroom settings have been forced to move to virtual programming. As the country faced unprecedented times, we strategically investigated virtual and safe in-person options that properly served our students and families. NASA Texas Space Grant and its partners were dedicated to providing stellar opportunities for kids of all ages and have reimagined how these programs can engage audiences, even at a distance. NASA Texas Space Grant implemented a nationally competitive high school internship program where students conduct authentic research with NASA subject matter experts. The internship, usually hosted on the University of Texas campus, moved to a virtual platform with the unexpected result of including hundreds of additional students. Students identified mosquito larvae that carry Zika and West Nile Virtus, used NASA data to address issues from COVID-19, analyzed ice melt in Greenland with data from NASA satellites, and designed lunar and Mars outposts, all while increasing their knowledge about NASA Earth Science, Python coding, and NASA missions and opportunities. New tools, computer programs, and apps provided engaging opportunities for participants to conduct their investigations in a virtual environment with valid scientific results. Texas Space Grant reimagined programs, highlighted preparations and research, mantras they lived by as they created, incurred challenges and successes, and how they kept the integrity of the programs and mission while being safe will be shared. As museums, science centers, and youth programs adjust to the current health crisis, we must be mindful that programs and opportunities may not return to the way they were, expecting guests to always come to us in-person and in large crowds. We hope participants will walk away with ideas and methods to create programming that will be relevant now and for the future, as we all reimagine STEM education. Most significant changes occurred with the program going virtual: more projects were lined up for more teams, and therefore more interns could be accepted; the first two weeks of the program occurred online with students working remotely with their scientist mentors; speaker series was added to engage students with subject matter experts; students showcase became a live broadcasted two-day event. Interns are selected on the basis of their academic records, written application that includes written essay questions and video about their interest in STEM. Should we transition to a hybrid model in 2021, housing, meals, and local transportation are provided for those selected. A limited number of travel scholarships for flights to Austin are available. Application information may be found here:

2. Lesson Plans The primary focus of the internship is for the students to learn how to interpret NASA satellite data while working with scientists and engineers in their chosen area of work. The 2020 projects were: Aerospace Engineering, Astronomy, Emergency Response, Exploring the Moon, GLOBE: Mosquito Mapper, GRACE (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment), ICESat (Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite), Mars Exploration, Mars 2020, and COVID19 Strands (Increased Safety and Health, Grocery Shortage, Sustainable Future, and Space Exploration). The internship concluded with student research teams presenting their projects to an audience of UT scientists and engineers, as well as other interns and their guests via a live Zoom webinar and Q&A. The live public event was broadcast as a two-day event on YouTube, 2020 SEES Virtual Showcase, with presentations by selected research teams from each project. The 2020 presentations were broadcast for a national audience and can be viewed here:

3. Lessons Learned: • When moving to an all-virtual internship we encountered: • Technical issues • Distractions and time management of students • Keeping students motivated in virtual environment • Understanding course expectations • Lack of in-person interaction and engagement • Scheduling conflicts • Students attending multiple virtual programs

4. Evidence of Impacts

Before the program, most students… • Had a limited knowledge of what NASA does and the variety of STEM fields employed • Did not consider a NASA career, but now they are excited about STEM careers and looking forward to more internships • Had limited access to summer internships due to COVID19

5. Program results

Measurable Achievement • Increased number of students, particularly underrepresented and underserved who will major in STEM in college and/or become employed in STEM careers. • Impact of SEES on student interns • Increased knowledge and science literacy

TSGC tracks student progress after completion of the program. From the first 5 years of data: 98% begin college in a STEM discipline.

Acknowledgement The SEES High School Summer Intern Program is in partnership with NASA Cooperative Agreement Notice NNH15ZDA004C Award NNX16AB89A. TSGC is funded through the NASA National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program (SPACE Grant) Training Grant 20152018

Miller, C., & Baguio, M. (2021, March), STEM Enhancement in Earth Science (SEES): A reimagining of an onsite NASA/TSGC/UTCSR high school internship program Paper presented at ASEE 2021 Gulf-Southwest Annual Conference, Waco, Texas.

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