Tennessee State, Wiley College Launch NASA Academies
Tennessee State University in Nashville and Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, are the most recent historically Black campuses to launch sites of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Science, Engineering, Mathematics and Aerospace Academy (SEMAA)/Aerospace Education Laboratory (AEL) program.
Last year, the NASA Glenn Research Center in Ohio chose the two schools and a tribal college in South Dakota as the newest sites for the initial three-year NASA funding commitment. Including the three newest sites, SEMAA/AELs total 23 in the United States, according to NASA officials.
“They’re on track to make it happen,” Dovie Lacy, NASA program manager for the SEMAA/AEL program, says of the newest programs. NASA SEMAA/AEL was established to target historically underrepresented students in grades K-12 to activities in the fields of science, engineering, mathematics and technology.
“The goal is to take this program where it’s needed the most,” Lacy notes.
In March, Wiley College officials opened an aeronautics education laboratory on their campus that will allow students to explore aerodynamics and flight through virtual reality and other flight simulation technology. Beginning this summer, the educational program is expected to consist of eight-week, Saturday morning sessions with distinct curricula for each grade level enrolled. There are no student fees.
“This builds on President Bush’s No Child Left Behind initiative by alleviating some of the fear many students have for science, math and technology,” said Wiley College president and CEO Dr. Haywood L. Strickland.
“Although we are focusing our immediate attention on students primarily from Harrison County we are in a larger sense helping America to prepare and train its own future scientists. Wiley College is committed to preparing students to face the technological challenges of the 21st century,” Strickland adds.
At Tennessee State, the SEMAA/AEL site will be located on the first floor of Wilford W. Lawson Hall on the main campus. The NASA support grant is worth $650,000 and includes $250,000 worth of equipment, $150,000 for start-up costs, and $125,000 for each of the second and third years of the initial grant, according to Tennessee State officials.
Lacy says teachers participating in the Tennessee State program begin their training this month while K-12 students can expect to be enrolled in the educational program in August.
“Tennessee State University is committed to make TSU’s SEMAA/AEL an outstanding model for this exceptional national program,” says Dr. James A. Hefner, president of Tennessee State.
The NASA grants to TSU, Wiley College and Oglala Lakota College in Kyle, S.D., were awarded through a competitive process. The TSU proposal was done in partnership with SECME Inc., the Atlanta-based pre-college program for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Dr. Yvonne Freeman, the executive director of SECME, and other SECME officials, worked with TSU officials to put together a joint proposal.
“It is our belief that this new SEMAA/AEL site at TSU will become the flagship for this NASA program,” according to Freeman.
Lacy explains that a total of 15 institutions submitted proposals in 2003 to compete for SEMAA/AEL funding. Solicitations for proposals were sent on July 8, 2003, to more than 1,000 accredited two- and four-year minority colleges and universities. Final selections were based on each location’s ability to attract and retain students from target populations, its ability to longitudinally track student participation, its organizational structure strength, the strength of its partnerships and its ability to sustain the program after the expiration of NASA funding.
“We especially wanted to know that an institution is committed to supporting the academy after the NASA support is gone,” Lacy says.
SEMAA, credited to the vision of former U.S. Congressman Louis Stokes of Cleveland, was developed in 1993 through a partnership between Glenn Research Center and Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, to foster understanding and enthusiasm for math and science in K-12 students. Since its inception, SEMAA has reached more than 100,000 students, parents and teachers around the nation, according to NASA officials.
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