Glendale students, teacher head to NASA's Johnson Space Center
Science experiment leads to an all-expenses-paid trip to the Texas center.
Wilson Middle School students Rachel Harmon, 13, and Regina Kim, 14, with their science teacher Mary Inglish will travel to Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas to participate in the NASA Explorer School Student Symposium.(Tim Berger/Staff Photographer) (Tim Berger / Staff Photographer / April 30, 2012)
Regina Kim, 14, and Rachel Harmon, 13, both eighth-grade students at Wilson Middle School, will travel with their science teacher Mary Inglish to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas on Wednesday where they will spend two days touring the facilities, lunching with astronauts and mingling with peers from across the country.
The all-expenses-paid trip was awarded in March after the two students successfully submitted an experiment and presentation to NASA Explorers Schools. The education program is designed to foster student opportunities and teacher training in the science, technology, engineering and math fields, commonly known as STEM disciplines.
“It is no secret we need more students in STEM careers,” said Inglish about encouraging her students to participate. “I want them to see that there are a lot of opportunities, I want to have them see these other jobs that they probably never thought of before.”
Inglish — who regularly browses the NASA Explorers Schools website looking for clever lessons and supplementary resources — said she decided to test out a science experiment in one of her classes, while informing her students that they could take the assignment one step further and apply for the trip to the Johnson Space Center.
It was open to all students, but Regina and Rachel were the only ones to take up the challenge. They completed the experiment in class and then met with Inglish to write and videotape the presentation after school.
The project included designing a Styrofoam cup that could be manipulated from a distance by a string and deposit a marble on a specific target.
“It was based on how NASA scientists land rovers on Mars,” Rachel said.
It was fascinating to see how they could create something similar to prototypes designed by NASA scientists working on sending rovers to space, Regina said. Her collaborators made the work all the more enjoyable, she added.
“Being with people like them made it really fun,” Regina said.
The trio learned in mid-March that they were among the 30 student teams invited to Houston. It will be Regina’s first time on an airplane, and her first trip out of California.
The news is already motivating other students to pursue their own projects, Inglish said.
“Many of the people who work at JPL were interns and so once you get into that track it does open your mind to a lot of things,” Inglish said.