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Space-age Comes to Middle School (Image 2)

The Mars Yard at the Dr. John A. McAdams Jr. Space Center, located at a middle school

Christopher Janneck (right), a Ph.D. candidate in computer science and engineering at Lehigh University, works with a Harrison-Morton Middle School student in the school's Dr. John A. McAdams Jr. Space Center. The new center seeks to prepare more students in middle and high school for careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. [See related image Here.]

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Faculty and students from Lehigh, in collaboration with the Allentown School District, built the Dr. John A. McAdams Jr. Space Center, a 21st century space center complete with Mission Control. The center teaches students the fundamentals of software programming and robotics and lets them use wireless remote control to guide robots across an extraterrestrial terrain called the "Mars Yard." The Mission Control at the space center, designed by Butz Architects of Allentown in collaboration with NASA, is a replica of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. The Mission Control features advanced teleconference systems and Internet2, which will allow the students to connect with the outside world.

"The goal is for students to use the technology now in place to communicate in real time with NASA scientists or even astronauts on space missions," says Henry Odi, executive director of academic outreach at Lehigh.

The project at Harrison-Morton has received two multi-year grants from NSF as well as funding from the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Technology Alliance and from Air Products and Chemicals Inc., Alvin H. Butz Inc. and other companies. The school also receives education support from NASA through the NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) Explorer School program.

NSF also provides support through its STEM program, which enables Lehigh students and professors to teach at Harrison-Morton and a half dozen other elementary, middle and high schools. NSF's STEM program enlists universities to help public schools teach science, encourages students to seek STEM careers, and reaches out to black, Hispanic and female students, who are underrepresented in STEM fields. (Date of Image: 2010)

Credit: Theo Anderson on behalf of Lehigh University
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