Above: Dr. Ning Zhang, left, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, works with Oshanae Smith of Jeanerette Senior High School on assembling her model rocket for this week's launch during Reach for the Stars Explorer Camp at McNeese State University.
Forty-two 10th and 11th graders from around the state are exploring areas of outer space at McNeese State University's summer Reach for the Stars Explorer Camp this week. The camp is funded by a federal grant initiative called Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP).
This grant program is designed to increase the number of students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education, according to Dr. Nikos Kiritsis, dean of the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology and program coordinator of the grant. "GEAR UP provides grants to states and partnerships like ours to elevate the academic and career aspirations of students from LA GEAR UP schools."
Kiritsis said the Explorer Camp seeks to use the excitement of space to provide some basic science and mathematics skills preparation as well as planning for entrance into an undergraduate program upon graduation from high school. This is the second LA GEAR UP camp this summer - 47 students were on campus last week.
"Space is one of the few areas that immediately attracts and inspires most of the students to learn," he said. "Also, a wide range of science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields combine and integrate when trying to explain how and why 'things' happen in space. And space-oriented activities lend themselves for adoption into problem-based learning environments for children of any age."
Students explore principles from engineering, chemistry, physics, biology and astronomy as they relate to space science and exploration through model rocketry, space robotics, space biology and astronomy classes, said Kiritsis.
At the camp's conclusion on Friday, students will travel to Space Center Houston, where they will tour the facility and Starship Gallery, view science lab demonstrations and the voyage exhibit, experience the Blastoff Show and Living in Space and see a film.