This past summer several School System educators took part in the inaugural session of the Michoud Education Fellow Program, an intensive two-week internship held at the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility in eastern New Orleans.
Those participating were Dr. Paulette Perrin, Secondary Science Curriculum Specialist, and teachers Ruth Hill, Monteleone Junior High School; Crystal Drake, St. Tammany Junior High School; Joanne Hobson, Slidell Junior High School; Paul Chandler, Slidell High School, and Deborah Nunez, Covington High School.
Dr. Perrin gave a report on the new program to the School Board recently, saying that the experience far surpassed the group's expectations.
In addition to touring the facility and getting a first-hand look at how important science, math, and literacy are in the daily work of Michoud employees, the teachers met with several NASA space shuttle astronauts: Karen Nyberg, mission specialist; Ken Ham, pilot; Ron Garan, mission specialist; Mark Kelly, commander; and Mike Fossum, mission specialist.
The internship program is the result of collaboration among St. Tammany Parish Schools, Louisiana State University/Louisiana Space Consortium, and NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center/Michoud Assembly Facility. The program encourages educators to communicate the information, experiences, and lessons learned to their students during the school year.
The St. Tammany Parish Public School System was invited to help develop the education program for teachers that could be duplicated with other parishes in southeast Louisiana. Other NASA facilities have similar opportunities for involving educators in facility tours and fellowship programs.
During the event, educators were welcomed into the Michoud family and even designed their own “mission patch,” which featured a bright orange edge imprinted with their last names and a picture of a rocket, the space shuttle and the “lamp of learning” symbol in the inner blue circle. At the bottom of the inaugural patch was the St. Tammany Parish Public Schools logo and the names of the other participating institutions, NASA, LSU, and the Louisiana Space Consortium.
Commenting about their experience, Ms. Drake said, "The two weeks touring the Michoud facility and speaking with actual engineers and scientists was an eye-opening experience.” While at Michoud, she received numerous posters, books, pins, and other resources to bring back to her classroom to help engage her students in related lesson work.
“I am grateful to NASA, LSU, LaSpace, and the School Board for giving me the opportunity to expand my knowledge of the space program,” she said.
Dr. Perrin said the program offers a working model of what educators want their students to be able to do in a real world setting. “Teachers seldom have the opportunity to study the final product of education, the workplace,“ she said. “We saw in action the skills we want our graduates to take with them when they leave our School System.”
Program participants observed the assembly process for building Shuttle external fuel tanks, met with the engineering groups working for Lockheed who design and analyze the fuel tanks, and toured the materials labs where components are tested, evaluated and adjusted.
Michoud is managed by the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center and manufactures and assembles large aerospace systems and structures, including launch vehicles and space shuttle external fuel tanks in its 43-acre building in New Orleans East. Overall, the facility encompasses 832 acres with 900,000 square feet of office space, 400,000 square feet of warehouse space, and 2.2 million square feet of manufacturing space.
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