Last week the Pacific Science Center received a sizable grant from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), in the amount of $1.1 million to be used to develop a new education outreach program focusing on the earth and space sciences called NASA Now. The goal: To inspire young adults to pursue careers in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.
The five-year grant will help expand the Science Center’s efforts to engage diverse audiences and make valuable science learning experiences available to everyone, especially those who would otherwise not have access to such opportunities.
“Being selected by NASA for this award is gratifying for so many reasons,” said Bryce Seidl, president and CEO for Pacific Science Center said in a press release last week. “This grant allows us to reach underserved audiences, takes advantage of our existing Discovery Corps program, links to other partners like the UW and aligns so well with the science outreach objectives of NASA.”
The Science Center was among nine informal education providers chosen by NASA to receive its 2010 Competitive Program for Science Museums and Planetariums, a still young program put in place by Congress back in 2008. Through the grant, PSC will create the NASA Now program, emphasizing three aspects of its development:
- Updating the PSC planetarium with a state-of-the-art digital projector system
- Adding a second portable digital projector to the PSC Science on Wheels Space Odyssey program to expand outreach offerings to schools and communities and incorporate more up-to-date scientific research and discoveries (NASA Now will also subsidize the cost of this program delivery for schools that have a large percentage of students participating in free/reduced-price lunch programs)
- Creating the Track for Earth and Space Science Achievement (TESSA) program, which supports the exploration of earth and space science careers for teens who will be engaged alongside undergraduates studying astronomy
TESSA’s participating youth will help write content for Pacific Science Center’s planetarium shows, assist in delivering programming, update our exhibit floor with current space science information and receive mentoring opportunities with the University of Washington Pre-MAP (Pre-Major in Astronomy Program).
“Science centers and planetariums contribute significantly to engaging people of all ages in science, technology, engineering and math,” James Stofan, acting associate administrator for NASA’s Office of Education said in a press release. “NASA wants to give the informal education community access to a variety of agency staff and resources while offering professional development opportunities for informal science educators and encouraging the formation of collaborative partnerships.”