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Las Cruces middle school students come to NMSU to learn about flight

Middle school students from the Las Cruces Public School District participating in the Academy for Young Scientists were on the New Mexico State University campus this month for "Let Your Dreams Take Flight."

Local middle school students participating in the Academy for Young Scientists made and launched hot air balloons during a field trip titled "Let Your Dreams Take Flight" held on the New Mexico State University campus. (NMSU photo by Beth Sitzler)

During the trip, about 35 students made hot air balloons from tissue paper, kites and SR-71 Black Bird jet planes. The four-feet tall hot air balloons were launched in the atrium of O'Donnell Hall using pop corn poppers. A competition was held to see who could launch their SR-71 Black Bird jet plane the furthest.

"AYS field trips are designed to keep students interested in science from elementary school to middle school," said Courtney Harmon, AYS program coordinator. "It also helps broaden their idea of what a scientist is."

Luis Hernadez, a seventh-grader from La Academia, joined AYS in the spring of 2007 as a way to improve his science skills.

"I thought it would be fun and educational," Hernadez said. "I wasn't good at science and thought it could help me."

Ruth Robledo, a sixth-grader from Vista Middle School, also joined AYS in the spring of 2007 because she enjoyed science. Like several of the other participants Robledo was excited to build her own SR-71 Black Bird jet plane.

"I'm looking forward to building my own jet plane because I have a model SR-71 at home," Robledo said.

The Academy of Young Scientists is an organization funded by the National Science Foundation to bring an assortment of science, technology, engineering and mathematics activities to local children and their parents. It is part of NMSU's Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Outreach program.

Students track how many hours they participate in out-of-school STEM activities and work towards 50 hour, 100 hour and 150 hour science goals during their three years in AYS. After 50 hours they receive a T-shirt, 100 hours they receive a Barnes & Noble gift card and 150 hours they receive a digital camera.

"I'm amazed at the excitement in the kids and their commitment to the program," said Susan Brown director, of STEM Outreach. "It just goes to show you that if you give children good, fun, educational activities they will come and participate."

Other field trips have included a visit to White Sands National Monument, Carlsbad Caverns and the Albuquerque BioPark among others. The "Let Your Dreams Take Flight" field trip was the AYS fall NMSU campus field trip. A field trip to the university is held every semester.

"Bringing them to NMSU shows them that the campus isn't so scary," Brown said. "Then when it is time for them to go to college they will remember NMSU and the campus."

AYS was started at NMSU in the spring of 2007. It is one of 16 AYS sites throughout the country.