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New Mexico State University

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SEMAA offers children in Las Cruces hands-on learning

The Southern New Mexico Science, Engineering, Mathematics and Aerospace Academy (SNM SEMAA) will hold its summer programming for elementary and middle school students from 9 a.m. to noon June 1-23.


SEMAA is a year-round national after-school program designed by NASA to get children excited about math, science and technology by using aerospace in its activities.

"Math and science scores in the region needed improvement and SEMAA is a great way to get children excited about these subjects," said Laura Lomas Tomlinson, assistant director of the SNM SEMAA Program at NMSU.

This summer, more than 220 elementary school children and about 90 middle school children will participate.

About 120 elementary children will participate in the academy June 2-6 at Valley View Elementary and more than 100 elementary students will participate June 9-13 at the Dream Center.

The first two middle school sessions, June 2-6 and June 9-13, will take place at the New Mexico State University campus and the theme will be the International Space Station. The third and final middle school session, June 16-20, also will take place at NMSU, but the theme will be NXT LEGO robotics.

The program consists of a combination of school-based curriculum enhancements, university-organized enrichment activities and parent outreach. Tomlinson said each participating grade will do fun activities based on their own theme.

Themes include: first-grade, Interpret Explorers, which will be an introduction into space and will focus on the solar system; second-grade, Astronomers, which will focus on the Sun; third-grade, Junior Astronauts, which will look at life on the International Space Station; fourth-grade, Space Travelers, which will look at constellations; and fifth-grade, Lunar Explorers, which will focus on the Moon.

Middle school children participating in the International Space Station themed workshops will participate in several activities relating to life on the station. This includes water recycling, solar energy, wearing a space suit and training like an astronaut.

"We will take the children to the gym and to the swimming pool to go diving with Dive Quest to experience a simulated microgravity environment," Tomlinson said. "Some of the divers have actually trained astronauts. Our goal is to make it as realistic as possible."

Middle school children participating in the robotics themed workshop will learn how to use programming software and how to use different sensors including light, touch, sound and ultrasound.

"Our goal is that by the end of the week they will be able to design, program and train for competitions," Tomlinson said.

SNM SEMAA received a grant from NASA in 2001 to begin the program. At first the program was designed for only middle schools, but was expanded to elementary schools in the area. It is one of 15 SEMAA cites in the U.S. Tomlinson said that while most of the cites are larger and on the east coast, SNM SEMAA attracts as many students as Miami and more than New York. In the past seven years, more than 12,000 children have participated.

"It's very rewarding because the kids really enjoy it," Tomlinson said.

The program currently goes to 27 schools in Las Cruces and the Gadsden school districts. Tomlinson said they would like to expand to Hatch schools.

Tomlinson said there is currently a waiting list for the summer program.

For more information call the SEMAA office at (575) 646-1397.