NASA Day of Play teaches West Virginia middle-schoolers about STEM

MORGANTOWN — Igniting the love from Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) is one of the many missions NASA embarks on with their educational programs. This week, middle-school students from all over West Virginia were invited to the I-79 Technology Park for the annual Day in the Park that NASA’s Independent Verification & Validation (IV&V) Program holds every fall.
When people think NASA, they likely think of moon walks and rocket ships, but the reality of it is NASA does a lot more than launch astronauts into space. The NASA facility in Fairmont has a number of projects under way.
NASA works with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) tracking GOES-R, an orbiting satellite. They also possess a clean room used for Simulation-to-Flight 1 (STF-1), which is the first satellite ever built in West Virginia.
“It’s kind of a huge deal for the state of West Virginia,” said Bailee Miller, communications lead from NASA IV&V.
Engineers who built these satellites worked with college students on this satellite project, integrating it into WVU’s curriculum and continuing education in STEM, for those who have chosen it as a career.
Josh Revels, education specialist for NASA said many of the volunteers working the stations Wednesday were NASA employees in West Virginia. The booths were set up “carnival style.” Students changed stations doing different activities.
“Kids here are learning about the sun, space weather, magnetic fields, plasmas. They’re learning about hydraulic arms, they’re operating robot arms that run off of hydraulic power,” said Revels.
The kids also got to learn about robotics and programming to make robots complete mazes or tasks. The Discovery Dome showcased NASA’s future mission to Mars for students to watch. There was also rocket launching and a “hide and seek” as kids got to locate items with GPS.
“Kids are very curious and having these stations for them to travel around every 15 minutes is good because about 15 minutes and they’re like ‘I want to learn something else somewhere else’”, said Revels.
Don Ferguson, PhD of the Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Energy Technology Lab was the events keynote speaker telling students about his research in experimental and computational combustion. He too is a STEM lover, participating in DOE’s Science Bowl. Fairmont State University also lent a hand in teaching the kids about electricity.
Revels, who has taught many different sciences, put together the stations and activities for the kids to enjoy Wednesday. He was also an intern at NASA who at one time did the same activities the kids were doing.
“We bring interns in and we start them out as early as 16. We have high school and college internships and the goal is to eventually try to either bring them back to IV&V or to get them at other centers,” said Miller.
Getting kids engaged at the middle school age is imperative as studies show at this age interest often drops off for STEM, especially in girls. Day in the Park helps get students excited about STEM careers so maybe one day they’ll become interns and work for NASA.
“We try to get people aware of NASA missions, aware of NASA opportunities for them and also just aware of all the STEM careers that are available to them here in West Virginia,” said Revels.
For some, Revels said getting a career in STEM can be discouraging because students might feel they have to move far away from the Mountain State. NASA education programs show them there are science opportunities not to far from their own backyard.
“We try to get them with experts who are actually working in STEM careers in West Virginia. Meeting with them, talking with them, where our expects can tell them a little bit more and enlighten them,” said Revels.

To continue reading, log into your account or explore our subscription options:

More Education

OLLI members meet, talk present and future
Jascenna Haislet is passionate about learning. She said her parents believed in lifelong education.
June 19, 2019 - 7:42 pm
State School Building Authority hands out $6M for construction
The state School Building Authority handed out more than $6 million in funding Monday for a handful of school construction projects in West Virginia.
June 18, 2019 - 9:17 am
Bus loop at Mountaineer Middle set for repairs
sinkhole ate my homework? Not if the Monongalia County Board of Education can help it.
June 16, 2019 - 6:28 pm
WVEA pres on ed reform: 'It's deja vu all over again' from 2010
CHARLESTON, W.Va. Education reform legislation includes charter schools and controversial changes to hiring and firing teachers.
June 16, 2019 - 6:20 pm