The diligent and fruitful collaboration between Congressman Gregory Meeks and Professor Jack Schlein (now Professor Emeritus, York College) has made York a former site for STEM awareness. SEMAA was introduced to the community in 1999 and continued until 2015, replaced by the MAA program in 2015.
In addition to essential support from NASA, timely funding from AT&T and ConEdison played an important role in bringing experiential learning tools and much needed training to participants, especially in overcoming learning loss during the pandemic. The well-coordinated program plans and their execution, which were skillfully managed by MAA staff, family focus groups and stakeholders, were of particular importance to this exceptional achievement. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the program to move from an in-person-only program to a virtual program since mid-March 2020. Prior to mid-March 2020, classes offered on the York College campus were practical and focused about teamwork. To embrace the “new normal,” MAA staff worked very hard and relied heavily on the virtual delivery of STEM content to students. The grade-level interactive online STEM courses from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), NASA Online Educators Network (NEON), Civil Air Patrol, and the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) have become valuable sources and teachers have built courses for students. At home, the students used readily available ordinary materials such as paper, scissors, tape, tweezers, toothpicks, cardboard, colored pencils, batteries, etc. to build rockets, telescopes, planes, bridges and electrical circuits.
Parents helped elementary students follow directions, assemble materials, and complete assigned tasks. Being directly involved with students, parents, and caregivers – many of whom are first generation immigrants – noticed the richness of NASA’s STEM lessons and greatly appreciated the teachers’ willingness, ability to reach out and encouragement. to students who are learning. Often, parents communicated positively about the dissemination of the content. This direct partnership is very crucial for the program, which did not exist as with the in-person offers.
In a few cases, students were given STEM kits to take home and conduct experiments, primarily for high school students. To further promote group learning, representative high school students were selected for peer mentoring, an initiative that was complemented by additional funding from AT&T and ConEdison. A small cohort of high school students conducted research on robotics, science content related to NASA’s Artemis, space exploration, astrobiology, etc., and presented at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America (GSA). Currently, the peer mentoring initiative is becoming very attractive and MAA continues to build a new cohort of students to present at the GSA annual meeting to be held in Denver on October 10, 2022. The former student presenters were very pleased to have this opportunity offered to them and commented “Thank you for presenting the GSA Connects 2020 opportunity, I was able to meet a variety of people as well as
see posters from other presenters. I had no idea that professionals can be so helpful and full of encouragement. Violeta Scandon (now enrolled at the Georgia Institute of Technology).
The latest educational effort is focused on teaching middle and high school students programming languages using python. Knowledge of python has been applied to build and control the movements of the robots. Participating students often continued their robot building activities after the regular STEM session and communicated with their teammates to ensure that the final assembly of all components is interconnected and ready to initiate movement or take off. In this way, the students involved experienced the potential applications of the language and learned how to solve technical problems related to the design and technical results.
The program being mainly Saturday mornings (fall and spring sessions) and weekdays (summer sessions) was suitable for many children to attend the K1-12 program. Almost every public school in New York City offered an online session for students during the initial phase of COVID-19, and many students were given an iPad or laptop to take classes through Google Classroom, Zoom and WebEx. MAA students, for the most part, had the electronic tools to connect, listen to teachers, and grab additional relevant web content to complete their homework.
As an additional exposure to STEM, AT&T invited representative high school students to virtually attend NEWLAB, located in Brooklyn, New York, which is home to more than 800 engineers, inventors and entrepreneurs; they constantly use transformative and cutting-edge technologies to solve the world’s biggest challenges with leaders and experts from all sectors and megacities. It is equipped with a 3D printing facility, hydroponic garden, electric transportation platform, green power and 5G network – designed to educate students to appreciate how technology is changing rapidly and potentially opening up new job opportunities. The visit to NEWLAB allowed students to observe new inventions, and certainly to be motivated to seek summer internships and diversify their technical skills.
Several participants of the MAA and SEMAA programs are beneficiaries of NASA’s STEM education and eloquently expressed their satisfaction saying that “this has been a trigger and has sparked an interest in the valuation of science, math and science. engineering – ultimately magnetized to choose STEM disciplines and become professionals. “Sol De Leon (now enrolled at CUNY Hunter College)
Some notable students are Sandi Wills (PhD in Immunology, Duke University), Jasmin Budhan (Tufts University), Matthew Khargie (joint venture, senior analyst), and Juan Pablo Rodriguez (robotics engineer at Honeybee Robotics). A handful of recent MAA participants now attend Columbia University, New York University (Tandon School of Engineering), Cornell University, Rochester Institute of Technology, CUNY Macaulay Honors College, Georgia Institute of Technology, Stony Brook University and Northeastern University.
Expanding the participation of MAA and SEMAA graduates
Much of the success and longevity of the NASA STEM program at York College is due to the loyal, passionate and supportive graduates and members of the Family Focus Group. It is a tradition here at the York campus to notice that former participants return to help teachers or join as teachers-in-training or regular teachers. Students who attend feel very comfortable with returning people; Likewise, former participants find their place and give students a sense of belonging. Knowledge transformation becomes very effective as the participating students notice a lot of passion, acuity and comfort from their predecessors.