Mines News

Release Date Wednesday, December 7, 2016

NASA Grant Provides Astronomy Exploration for K-12 Students, Continuing Ed for Teachers

RAPID CITY, S.D. (Dec. 7, 2016) – The South Dakota Space Grant Consortium affiliated with NASA has awarded the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology a $25,000 Project Innovation Grant to promote STEM education by using astronomy to engage K-12 teachers and students in math. 

Math professors will lead the comprehensive program to increase interest in the fields of engineering and science necessary in developing the nation’s workforce.

The project is the direct result of a request among teachers for professional development opportunities through South Dakota Mines. The project includes three components: several two-day computational astronomy workshops for teachers; bi-weekly computational astronomy sessions for middle and high school students; and night sky exploration for students. It will be open to students and teachers from Rapid City and neighboring school districts.

“Several of our math faculty members happen to be really good amateur astronomers. When teachers told us they wanted more content-rich professional development opportunities, the faculty put together a program that looks interesting and fun for both teachers and students. If this is well received, we will keep working with teachers to try other things like this in the future,” said South Dakota Mines President Heather Wilson.

The project stems from a planning meeting Wilson, Mines Provost Demitris Kouris, Ph.D., and other Mines faculty had with area K-12 educators last fall.

The workshops for K-12 science and math teachers will connect specific mathematics computational models to astronomy and space exploration, with the goal of taking it back into the classrooms.

Among the advanced topics for teachers: the solar system, Kepler’s laws and historical discoveries; computation of planetary masses, light speed and distances within the solar system and beyond; applications to man-made satellites; and the nature of light and the electromagnetic spectrum.

Teachers will also have the opportunity to participate in night-sky telescopic observations during the workshops. The one-credit course can be used for professional advancement and recertification.

Three two-day workshops will be offered in April 2017, October 2017 and March 2018. Tuition is paid in full by the grant funds. Each workshop can accommodate a maximum of 15 teachers. Registration for the first workshop will open in January 2017 through the South Dakota Mines website.

The computational astronomy course for middle and high school students will be offered at the South Dakota Mines campus every two weeks throughout the school year starting next fall. The goal is to instill an interest in space exploration through understanding applied math.

Students may register online through the university’s website at the end of May 2017. Each session is two hours.

In September 2017, middle and high school students and their family members will have the opportunity to participate in night-sky exploration. The evening will begin with a two-hour math preparation, hands-on activities in computational astronomy, and will be followed with night sky telescopic observations. The goal of the September session is to spark students’ desires to attend the bi-weekly sessions during the school year.  

For additional information on this project, contact the South Dakota Mines Department of Mathematics & Computer Science at (605) 394-2471.

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About SD Mines

Founded in 1885, the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology is a science and engineering research university located in Rapid City, S.D., offering bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. The university enrolls 2,859 students with a student-to-faculty ratio of 15:1. The SD School of Mines placement rate is 96 percent, with an average starting salary of $62,929. Find us online at www.sdsmt.edu and on Facebook and Twitter.

Contact: Fran LeFort, (605) 394-6082, Fran.LeFort@sdsmt.edu