Experience NASA’s Newest Mars Rover “Curiosity” Landing on the Red Planet
Could Mars have supported life? Tennessee Tech’s Millard Oakley STEM Center will host a real-time viewing of the NASA Control Center coverage of the Curiosity landing on Sunday, August 5 starting at 10:30 p.m. to 12:45 a.m.
Curiosity is to land at 12:31am central time (Monday). Unlike previous rovers sent to Mars, Curiosity is a robot-chemist seeking evidence of past habitability on the Red Planet.
The Oakley STEM Center is one of several sites across the world celebrating and participating in this historic landing. Curiosity at the STEM Center is presented in partnership with the Planetary Society’s Annual Planetfest in Pasadena, CA.
Admission is free; reservations are required. For more information visit tntech.edu/stem/events or call 931-372-6573.
Tech’s Millard Oakley STEM Center has been at the forefront of enhancing science, technology, engineering and mathematics education for the region’s students since it opened in 2010, and a recent grant places the center in an even more active role.
Now the official Hub for the Upper Cumberland Rural STEM Initiative, the STEM Center received $500,000 of a $1.5 million grant from Tennessee’s First to the Top program. The remaining $1 million went to the Putnam County School System.
Part of the Tennessee STEM Innovation Network, the UCRSI Hub will support partnerships between post-secondary education entities, local and regional school districts, and businesses and non-profits that are interested in STEM education.
As the Hub, the STEM Center will coordinate processes among the partners to create customizable lessons and experiences for classrooms and communicate progress on the program’s objectives. The Hub will document the activities, successes and results and share best practices among participating school districts. Additionally, the Hub will actively seek funding to continue the efforts beyond the initial timeframe for the grant, which is two years.
The UCRSI website will launch this fall and provide training resources for teachers and private and public community partner volunteers.
The flow of information won’t be one-way though, according to STEM Center director Sally Pardue. “We are not planning to simply send out information to our partners,” Pardue said. “The Hub is designed to encourage an intentional and ongoing conversation with our educators and the broader community to promote innovation and create a more unified and consistent approach to teaching STEM subjects across the entire region.
“The STEM Hub will leverage connections to enhance how students learn STEM subjects and establish the framework to engage the students in authentic ways. For students to understand why these subjects are important, they need to see, touch and experience them in real-world situations,” she said.
While efforts have begun in Putnam County, the program will reach far beyond the county line. More than 72,000 students in 20 counties will benefit from the initiative. UCRSI programs will launch this fall in the Lebanon Special School District and in the following counties: Bledsoe, Cannon, Clay, Cumberland, Dekalb, Fentress, Grundy, Jackson, Macon, Overton, Pickett, Putnam, Sequatchie, Smith, Sumner, Trousdale, Van Buren, Warren, White and Wilson.
Shirley Myers, former Overton County supervisor of instruction and Hub manager, is pleased with the opportunities and resources that will be available to the schools and educators.
“UCRSI allows us the time and technology to help so many counties to work collaboratively, to better communicate best practices, and to be able to customize the learning solutions so all students can get the maximum benefit,” said Myers.
“This will place additional, practical tools in the hands of our dedicated educators to help them get students excited about learning STEM subjects.”
Developing a collaborative network is a primary goal for UCRSI. Local businesses and groups have joined the partnership, and Pardue encourages more to commit to the cause.
“Each partner brings unique resources and expertise to the creative table, and we’d like to include more partners who share our passion for STEM education for our students,” said Pardue. “The UCRSI Hub will serve as a regional example of the power of collaboration. Through this united effort and sharing of resources, students will have access to a better education and brighter futures.”
The Oakley STEM Center is housed in Ray Morris Hall at Tennessee Tech. For more information, contact the STEM Center at 931-372-6573 or visit www.ucrsi.org.
Want to learn more about the Earth’s longest day of the year on June 21, the summer solstice?
The Oakley STEM Center is offering the second annual Longest Day of the Year community workshop the evening of Thursday, June 21 from 7 – 9:30pm. The free admission event is a family-centered educational open-house allowing visitors to experience a variety of activities and learning stations.
Families are invited to go to the edge and back while touring the universe in the STEM Center’s Virtual Theater (showings every half hour), experience NASA’s educational video Journey to the Stars, learn about the reasons for the seasons and why we have a “longest day”, use and learn about telescopes, view the night sky, and other engaging activities!
“Learning more about our Earth and Sun and why they do what they do is an essential part of our future on this planet,” stated Marc Robinson, STEM Center graduate assistant and host/coordinator of the Longest Day family workshop. “This free, family event is a great way to spend an educational and engaging evening with your kids. The activity stations will rotate every half hour, so families can come and go as their schedules allow.”
Reservations are required, but admission is free. Visit EVENTS for details and online registration instructions. Parent/guardians must remain on-site with children during the workshops.
Get them off the couch, out of the house and into science! The Oakley STEM Center at TTU invites students in the 3rd through 8th grade to attend the 2012 EXPLORATIONS Day Camp offered June 18-22 from 8:30am-3:30pm, daily.
The five-day camp, Monday - Friday, offers your child the unparalleled experience of working in state-of-the-art learning studios with real scientists, biologists and chemists from the university and in the field. The day camp costs $250 and includes all materials, supplies and “take-homes”.
Participants will get to create and learn about fuel cells, rockets, chemical reactions, algae & slime, makeup, and more!
“We are thrilled with the line up of activities and instructors we have for this year’s EXPLORATIONS Day Camp,” said Gail Gentry, outreach coordinator at the Oakley STEM Center. “Our campers will participate in a variety of hands-on workshops and have an opportunity to perform dissections and launch their own rockets!”
Snacks are included; students must bring their own lunch and drinks (drink machines on-site, $1.25). Campers receive a Certificate of Completion at the end of the week. Reservations required; no walk-in registration.
Registration is open. Visit EXPLORATIONS for workshop details, daily schedule, and online registration instructions.
This summer TTU’s Oakley STEM Center offers regional teachers representing PreK through the 12th grade to participate in professional development workshops specifically targeted to the math and science education needs of their students.
Workshop titles range from Am I Supposed to Teach Algebra? YES! for PreK-K teachers to Physics Boot Camp (8th-12th). Teachers throughout the regional are encouraged to register for these needs-identified, student-focused, interactive workshops.
“The Oakley STEM Center’s summer professional development [PD] offerings were specially crafted for our region based on student performance assessments and state standards topics specifically requested by teachers,” said Gail Gentry, STEM Center outreach coordinator. “The variety and depth of the workshops will give teachers resources and strategies to help their students succeed in STEM subjects.”
Teachers will work in the state-of-the-art learning studios at the Oakley STEM Center and have access to university faculty and other field professionals during these cutting-edge training opportunities.
Registration is open. Visit SUMMER PD for details and online registration instructions. For more information call 931-372-6573.
Ready to shoot for the moon? The Upper Cumberland welcomes a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Educator Resource Center (ERC) to the region.
TTU’S Millard Oakley STEM Center for the Teaching and Learning of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics has been officially designated as a field NASA ERC. The purpose of an ERC is to help teachers learn about and use NASA's vast educational resources.
The ERCs provide educators with demonstrations of educational technologies, in-service and pre-service training utilizing NASA instructional products. NASA categorizes its resources by grade level and offers teachers classroom activities, lesson plans and videos as well as access to webcasts and information about contests. Teachers can also learn about workshops and conferences related to their subject matter.
“I am ecstatic about announcing the new NASA Educator Resource Center now at home in the Millard Oakley STEM Center,” said Dr. Sally Pardue, director of the new STEM-education facility on Tennessee Tech’s campus. “We will provide access to a library of resources, support materials, and “lending” opportunities to teachers throughout Tennessee via the NASA ERC and professional development workshops.”
“Using the new NASA Educator Resource Center at the STEM Center has given me access to such wonderful ideas, projects and activities,” said Brenda Robinson, fifth grade teacher at Avery Trace Middle School. “The resources available through the center help support what I’m doing in the classroom.”
Earlier NASA grants helped populate the library with resources. In Tennessee, Vanderbilt University acts as the fiscal agent for NASA’s education programs providing grant opportunities for programs and projects.
In the past few years, NASA identified three major education goals: strengthening NASA and the nation's future workforce, attracting and retaining students in STEM disciplines, and engaging Americans in NASA's mission. Those goals, particularly as they relate to STEM education and workforce development, align with the mission of TTU’s Oakley STEM Center.
“We are responsible for educating our children for the future, giving them opportunities, and preparing them to lead,” added Pardue. “By providing our teachers [and students] access to cutting-edge educational resources, activities and programs we will have a very positive impact on STEM-education in the Upper Cumberland and the career options available to our children and grandchildren.”
Field centers are often located on university campuses and have partnerships with their state’s education department or regional educational organizations. A variety of TTU departments have already begun to form partnerships with regional P-12 programs for professional development and enrichment activities, including the Upper Cumberland Teachers Councils in Science and Math, College of Engineering Math Science Partnership, President’s School on Emerging Technologies, and the Upper Cumberland Middle Grades Math Partnership.
Teachers will immediately make use of the NASA ERC at TTU when they participate in a STEM Center User Group Training Workshops led by regional teacher liaisons of the Tennessee Space Grant Consortium and facilitated by Sally Pardue. These workshops, offered July 9 and October 8, will introduce teachers to available resources, hands-on activities, lending materials, and prepare them to lead an EXPEDITION Field Trip for their students.
Tennessee Tech’s Millard Oakley STEM Center for the Teaching and Learning of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics is brimming with exciting news.
After serving in an interim capacity since 2009 of TTU’s Millard Oakley STEM Center, Dr. Sally Pardue has been officially confirmed as the director of the year-old, cutting-edge educational facility.
Pardue’s education, background, inspiration and vision make her perfectly suited to lead the Millard Oakley STEM Center, it’s programs and resources.
“Under Sally’s leadership, we’ve opened the STEM Center and laid the foundation for excelling in STEM education and outreach,” said TTU President Bob Bell. “Her experience and energy will allow the university to respond to the region’s need to inspire students at young ages to pursue interests and careers in STEM-related fields.”
Sally Pardue grew up in Centerville, Tennessee, a graduate of Hickman County High School. She was encouraged by admissions counselor Jim Gray to attend Tennessee Tech University in 1985. Pardue received a four-year scholarship to TTU, choosing to major in mechanical engineering. She received her B.S. degree in 1989, followed by an M.S. in ’91 with Dr. Sastry Munukutla, and Ph.D. ‘95 with Dr. Richard Houghton.
As a student Pardue wanted to work for NASA and in 1987 she was awarded a competitive co-op position at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, working in systems and engineering test labs. She won the Tennessee Eastman Graduate Student Fellowship and participated in a Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) bridge integrity project.
After earning her Ph.D., Pardue joined the research and development staff of the TTU Manufacturing Center for four years. She then began teaching as a part-time adjunct faculty member until she was hired to a tenure-track position in Mechanical Engineering in 1999. Pardue was promoted to associate professor in 2004.
In 2005, she represented the college of engineering as a member of university-wide committee comprised of faculty and administrators to study and design models of what STEM-education could look like at TTU based on visits to other STEM sites nationally.
“Having a facility like the Millard Oakley STEM Center available to educators and students of all ages is an extraordinary resource,” said Sally Pardue. “I also have the honor of working in partnership with TTU’s talented faculty and experts to develop and deliver these exciting and engaging programs to our region.”
“With three great kids of my own, I have always been fascinated with how they absorb and retain knowledge – those experiences created a great interest in knowing more about how all ages learn and develop,” continued Pardue. “I look at STEM-education in Tennessee as a personal mission – if you can make a difference, you must act on it. ”
“Using the resources available through the STEM Center we can uncover what kids are passionate about and how we can best deliver content to inspire their futures.”
The programs offered by the Millard Oakley STEM Center respond to the needs of teachers and students (from preschool through college) via training, hands-on workshops, and educational research in STEM subjects. Community and family activities are also available.
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