San Miguel students learn about engineering with help from NASA

tstrickland@thetribunenews.comAugust 9, 2013 

San Miguel students showed off various engineering projects as part of a special grant-funded NASA Summer of Innovation camp that took place this week at Lillian Larsen School.

“By designing, building, testing and evaluating projects, students are learning what it is like to be a real engineer,” said Lillian Larsen Principal Judy Bedell in a statement.

The eight-day camp taught 60 students in grades 4 to 8 to use recyclable materials to build land rovers, solar ovens, landing pods, lunar buggies and crew exploration vehicles, according to the school district.

The curriculum covered an engineering design process that encourages users to ask, imagine, plan, create, experiment and improve. The program also reinforced the teachings of STEM, which is a learning method that focuses on science, technology, engineering and math.

On Thursday, youngsters got to teleconference with NASA’s digital learning network coordinator Lyle Tavernier as part of the program’s “Virtual Visits” by scientists and engineers.

"My favorite part of being an engineer was building the rover,” Lillian Larsen School fifth-grader David Lopez said in a statement provided by Bedell. “The hardest part was making the rover stay in one piece … it never comes out perfect the first time."

Added fourth-grader Melissa Gonzalez in the statement: "My favorite engineering activity was the crew exploration vehicle. The difficulty about being an engineer is you have to plan and create things."

School officials applied for the $2,520 program grant in April and were notified in late May that they were chosen, said Bedell, who is also the district program coordinator of curriculum and instruction. The award covered teacher time, training and project materials.

The money will also help pay for a Wednesday program this fall at the district’s Cappy Culver and Lillian Larsen schools where students will continue to work with NASA’s engineering curriculum with teacher Ann Wilson.

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