Working to expand professional development opportunities for science educators across the United States, NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy program, known as SOFIA, has selected 14 two-person teams for its 2015 Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors.
The flying observatory is a highly modified Boeing 747SP jetliner carrying a 100-inch (2.5-meter) effective diameter telescope. Fitted with instruments that collect data at infrared wavelengths, SOFIA flies at altitudes between 39,000 and 45,000 feet (12-14 kilometers) on 10-hour overnight science missions.
Each educator team will complete a graduate credit astronomy course and then will be paired with a team of professional astronomers conducting science flights aboard SOFIA. After their flight experiences, ambassadors take what they've learned from the program into their classroom and communities to relate the scientific discovery process and its value to society.
"The Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors program gives science educators a unique opportunity to interact with all facets of a NASA science mission," said John Gagosian, SOFIA Program Executive at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "Not only are these educators witnessing scientific research first-hand, they're seeing the wide range of professional and technical expertise needed to support that research, from engineering to technology to mathematics. This program shows educators the excitement of frontier science, and it shows students the multitude of career paths within NASA's programs."
The 28 Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors selected for 2015 come from 12 states plus the District of Columbia. Six of the states (Georgia, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, New Mexico and Oklahoma) as well as the District of Columbia are new to the program.
Educators selected for the 2015 cohort of this highly competitive, professional development program are:
- Adrienne Hestenes and Janet Mambrino, Xavier College Preparatory High School, Phoenix, Arizona
- Richard Krueger, Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy, and Samantha Thompson, Lowell Observatory, Flagstaff, Arizona
- Kevin Tambara, Bert Lynn Middle School, Torrance, California, and Sandra Trevino, Air Force Association/Girls Scouts, Sierra Vista, Arizona
- Dan Burns, Los Gatos High School, and David Marasco, Foothill College, Los Altos, California
- Monique Perez and Jeri Sloane, Palmdale Learning Plaza, Palmdale, California
- Susan Oltman, Kittredge Magnet School, and April Whitt, Fernbank Science Center, Atlanta, Georgia
- Kevin McCarron, Oak Park and River Forest High School, Oak Park, Illinois, and Chuck Ruehle, Astronomers Without Borders, Racine, Wisconsin
- Troy Cockrum, St. Therese Little Flower Catholic School, and Jeff Peterson, Center Grove Middle School North, Indianapolis, Indiana
- Brian Gonyar and Lauree Gott, Veazie Community School, Veazie, Maine
- Howard Fain and Stacy Lord, Worcester East Middle School, Worcester, Massachusetts
- Virginia (Ginger) DeVillers, West Michigan Flight Academy, Jenison, Michigan, and Lisa Wininger, Plainwell Middle School, Plainwell, Michigan
- Jeffery Killebrew, New Mexico School for the Blind, and Michael Shinabery, New Mexico Museum of Space History, Alamogordo, New Mexico
- Melissa Aguirre, JHS 217 Robert A. Van Wyck School, Jamaica, New York, and Jacqueline Fernandez-Romero, The Latin American Youth Center Career Academy, Washington, D.C.
- David Davisson, Longfellow Middle School, and Eileen Grzybowski, Norman North High School, Norman, Oklahoma
The 2015 group of Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors joins 55 educators from 23 states who have participated in the program during the past four years.
SOFIA is a joint project of NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR). The observatory is based at NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center's facility in Palmdale, California, and NASA's Ames Research Center is home to the SOFIA Science Center, which is managed in cooperation with the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) headquartered in Columbia, Maryland, and the German SOFIA Institute (DSI) at the University of Stuttgart. SOFIA's education and public outreach programs are managed by the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, and the Astronomical Society of the Pacific in San Francisco.