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Middle school students experience multiple fields of science during Spring Institute

More than 40 middle school students received exposure to a multitude of careers in science during a Spring Institute held by two New Mexico State University math and science outreach programs.

Students participating in the Southern New Mexico Science, Engineering, Mathematics and Aerospace Academy and the Southern New Mexico Academy of Young Scientists visited San Antonio, Houston and Galveston during the five-day trip.

"We wanted to expand their horizons on this trip. There are so many different careers in scientific fields out there, but students are limited in what they see in this part of New Mexico," said Ligia Ford, a SEMAA-AYS program coordinator.

The group kicked off the trip by visiting the Alamo in San Antonio. They then traveled to Houston and visited the Houston Space Center, where they were able to take part in numerous activities. They received the opportunity to go on several tours at the center, getting to see an actual control room and real space craft, capsules and moon rocks. They also walked through America's first space station, Skylab.

"My favorite parts of the trip were getting to see the space shuttles and the control room," said Daniel Evans, an eighth-grader at Picacho Middle School.

While at the center, the students built a robotic arm, using at least one simple machine, and a rocket. They also viewed a movie in which astronauts described their inspiration to become an astronaut, how they were selected, what they did on missions and how it felt being in space.

In a simulator, the students experienced how it would feel to be at a shuttle launch. They were able to watch an astronaut performing tasks in the Neutral Buoyancy Lab as well. The lab simulates the zero-gravity effects of space.

"There's so many things that astronauts have to keep in mind because anything can be fatal in space. Everything needs to be tested so if something's wrong, it can be fixed," said Louis Hernandez, an eighth-grader at La Academia Charter School.

After leaving Houston, the group traveled to Galveston, where they visited the Moody Gardens Aquarium. There, the students learned about coral at the Rendezvous on the Reef exhibit. They also took a guided tour of the aquarium, getting to hear facts about the different species showcased there.

The group traveled back to San Antonio for the last leg of the trip, where they participated in an educational program at Sea World. They were able to go behind the scenes and see the food stations used to feed the animals and learn about animal care.

"Expanding their horizons and sparking their interest in different fields of science was important on this trip. Getting to see the students engaged and asking questions everywhere we went was wonderful," Ford said.

Broadcast Advisory: Video and sound bites are available under the slug NMSU Space Center Trip at the following ftp site: ftp://aggievision:goaggies@aggievision.nmsu.edu. Use the following information if you are using a download client: Host: aggievision.nmsu.edu Username: aggievision Password: goaggies. To download these files you must have Quicktime Pro software. Watch this video on YouTube at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZMPFGFS_EAY. For questions or problems with downloading video, contact Minerva Baumann (575) 646-7566.