SETI Institute Announces 2017 and 2018 Educators for the Airborne Astronomy Program Aboard NASA’s SOFIA Flying Observatory

The SETI Institute announces selection of 39 teachers for the NASA Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors (AAA) program, a one-of-a-kind, multifaceted professional development experience for teachers. These educators are public high school physics and Earth/space science teachers. They were selected in partnership with seven California school districts.

AAA program
Theresa Paulsen uses a diffraction grating to demonstrate the wavelengths of light with two students during a SOFIA presentation. Credit: Theresa Paulsen 

“The Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors program gives science teachers a unique opportunity to witness research with all the blood, sweat, and tears as it really happens,” said AAA Principal Investigator Dr. Dana Backman. “These teachers can then convey to their students the wide range of professional expertise needed to support that research, from engineering to technology to mathematics, and perhaps see themselves someday in one of those roles.”

The AAA program prepares participants through webinars, workshops, and online learning modules for flights onboard NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) The SOFIA flight week is an immersive STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) experience at NASA’s research facility in Palmdale, Calif. Following training and flight week, the AAA teachers implement related science curricula. The AAA evaluators measure enhancement of student learning and STEM engagement resulting from this new science curricula that emphasizes real-world science. 

SOFIA is the world’s largest airborne observatory, with an effective telescope diameter of 2.5 meters (100 inches). Flying at altitudes between 39,000 to 45,000 feet, above more than 99% of the water vapor in the atmosphere, SOFIA makes it possible to obtain astronomical data that are impossible to obtain from telescopes on the ground.

The AAA program is an exciting and unique opportunity for the teachers who participate, allowing them not only access to subject matter experts at the SETI Institute and NASA, but to also positively engage their students with real-world experience.

“Educators need these opportunities to push themselves to expand their subject knowledge,” said AAA participant Peter Renders. “This will, in turn, inspire their students to do the same.” 

AAA participant, Lisa Maya Lock said, “This amazing opportunity will deepen my knowledge and enhance engagement and impact in my classroom.”

The AAA program is funded by NASA Science Mission Directorate through a Science Education Cooperative Agreement.

2017 - 2018 Educators


Sarah Arndt

Ravinder Athwal

Marita Beard

Beverly Berekian

Brad Beadell

Christopher Courtney

Michael Crawford

Mitrut Adrian Culciar

Kirstin DeGeer

Kevin Dwyer
 
David Forester

Justin Fournier

Tom Gavin

Nicholas Gravel

Amanda Heinisch

Jorge Himas

Christine Hirst

Timothy A. Horning

Lydia Jimenez

Judy Jennings

Lexi Kunz

Caylin Ledterman

Maya Loch

Remberto Lopez Jr

Juliet Mathews

Sneha Parikh

Aimee Rambaud

Peter Renders

Sharla Short

Edward Shicker

Christopher Spann

John Sphar

Matt Stanich

Stephan Unterholzner

Joseph Verderame

Todd Walker

Ron Wou

Eric Wozadlo

James Wright