Stennis launches program to beam engine testing into classrooms

Published: Mar. 26, 2014 at 10:55 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 27, 2014 at 9:54 AM CDT
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LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - Math and science lessons are about to get louder at some schools in Mississippi and Louisiana. The noise will be coming from Stennis Space Center in Hancock County. On Wednesday, Stennis launched a program that will bring its engine firing into classrooms.

How many blown-up balloons can you fit into a bowl? At least four if the bowl is filled with liquid nitrogen. When those shriveled balloons warm up, they expand.

"I thought they were pretty cool, because most people don't get to see liquid nitrogen," said eighth grader Mac Dulaney.

Scientists from Stennis Space Center performed various experiments using everyday items, from flowers to rubber balls, to help them launch a pilot STEM curriculum. Their first stop was Long Beach Middle School.

"We're constantly looking for innovative ways to inspire the next generation of scientists, technologist and engineers. This is one of the programs that we've looked at. We want to take this kind of on the road," said Chris Copelan, NASA Education Program Specialist.

The program will use technology to link Stennis to schools in Mississippi and Louisiana. Students will get to watch a live stream of an engine testing at Stennis, including the J-2X, an engine that could one day send humans to Mars.

"I thought it was pretty cool that you got to see what people don't get to see an engine test, and you got to see the engine and all the water that came out of it and the steam," said Mac.

Through the virtual visit, NASA scientists and engineers will also appear on the screen to answer student's questions.

"It really helps people who aren't interested in science, who don't know what they're doing yet, figure out what they want to do," said eighth grader J.T. Tripp.

The lessons show students the fun side of science and how it can propel them to careers in the space industry and beyond.

"We're kind of an unknown great facility. I used to teach in Pearl River County, and a lot of my students didn't even know what went on at Stennis. We try to spread the message of what actually occurs at Stennis, because we want these students to go off and earn their degree, yet come back and contribute to the economy and help us at Stennis," said Copelan.

Along with reaching out to students, NASA engineers will also provide professional development for science teachers in Long Beach. The training is scheduled for April 7.

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