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Using Space-Inspired Education Tools to Enhance STEM Learning in Rural Communities

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Broadening Participation of Minority Students in and with K-12 Engineering

Tagged Divisions

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering and Minorities in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1638.1 - 22.1638.14



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Paper Authors


Allison Anderson Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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Allison is a Ph.D. student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Southern California in Astronautics Engineering, and two masters degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics and the Technology Policy Program.

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Guillermo Luis Trotti Trotti & Asssociates, Inc.

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Guillermo Trotti

Gui Trotti is an internationally recognized architect and industrial designer. His design thesis entitled "Counterpoint: A Lunar Colony" is part of the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum permanent collection. Mr. Trotti has over 25 years of professional and academic experience. He has taught Space Architecture design at the College of Architecture at the University of Houston and Industrial Design courses for extreme environments at the Rhode Island School of Design. He is currently on the Board of Directors of Studio Arts Center International (SACI) in Florence, Italy. As founder and director of several space enterprises during his career he has been involved in the design of the International Space Station, many Space vehicles, Lunar and Mars surface Systems. As founder and president of two architecture / industrial design firms in Houston and Boston he has been responsible for the designed and construction of hospitality, mixed use, residential, industrial, and sustainable architectural projects as well as educational, commercial and military products, and space systems.
Mr. Trotti is a co-founder and was the Associate Director of the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture (SICSA) at the University of Houston where he taught graduate courses in Experimental Architecture Design. He has extensive design and research experience in modular and inflatable structures, construction methods in Space, and space mission architectures. His design studio won the NSF/AIA National Competition for a new South Pole Station, utilizing many parallels and lessons learned from the design of Lunar and Mars bases. His current research involves design of self-sustaining environments for Earth, space, and sea. He is a passionate sailor, and circumnavigated spaceship Earth on his sailboat, Galatea.

He has a Masters of Architecture from Rice University, Houston, Texas. 1976.
His thesis was entitled "Rice University Space Station Study: An Investigation of the Needs and the Design of an Orbiting Space Station with Growth Capabilities" funded by a NASA fellowship.

His Bachelor of Architecture is from the University of Houston, Houston, Texas. 1974.
His thesis entitled "Counterpoint: A Lunar Colony" was selected as part of the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum permanent collection. The research was funded by The Houston Endowment and technically supported by NASA HQ and JSC.

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Suzanne Marie Wilcox ExplorationWorks Museum of Science and Culture


Elizabeth Perry Gundersen ExplorationWorks Museum of Science and Culture

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Retired pediatrician, currently a Science and Robotics Educator at ExplorationWorks Museum of Science and Culture, Helena, MT.

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Dava J. Newman Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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Using Space-Inspired Education Tools to Enhance STEM Learning in Rural CommunitiesNASA’s education programs inspire many students, especially those in close proximity to one ofthe Agency’s Centers. In many rural communities, however, access to space-inspired informaleducation opportunities is sparse. Over 20% of the US population lives in areas with fewer than2,500 people. For students in rural areas, it is not feasible to rely on the local museums, industry,and community programs to provide informal education. This is particularly true for STEMsubjects (science, technology, engineering, and math) since many of the job opportunities inthese fields are not typically concentrated in rural communities. Rather than using moretraditional means of informal education, many parents and teachers use media and internet basedprograms to enhance education as a best alternative. Regardless of the quality of theseresources, it can often be difficult to achieve the same level of engagement as more hands-oninformal education experiences, such as a trip to a museum. To increase access to a museum-likeexperience, it is desirable to develop STEM education tools that can be used in multipleenvironments, such as in a museum, home, or school environment.In our informal education project entitled, Montana's Big Sky Space Education: The NASAExplorationSpace at ExplorationWorks, we have developed several multi-environment informalspace exploration education tools. This work presents the design philosophy used to create thesetools, including functionality, interactivity, ease of transition into different educationenvironments, portability, and ease of dissemination. The programs were developed forExplorationWorks Science and Cultural Center in Helena, MT. Montana has among the highestpercentage of rural students in the United States, making the museum’s mission to impact a largepercentage of students challenging. Through data collected by direct observation and interviewswith students, we demonstrate how the tools increase the museum’s reach and increase learningabout space and STEM from students using the tools both in home and at the museum. Wediscuss the considerations that must be addressed to transition a museum exhibit to use in a homeor classroom environment and discuss the lessons we learned in the process of our work.Word count: 345

Anderson, A., & Trotti, G. L., & Wilcox, S. M., & Gundersen, E. P., & Newman, D. J. (2011, June), Using Space-Inspired Education Tools to Enhance STEM Learning in Rural Communities Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18778

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