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NASA pays virtual visit to Northwest Elementary

Written by Merriell Moyer/Lebanon Daily News | Jan 18, 2017 10:47 AM
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Andy Encarnacion, 9, a fourth-grade student at Northwest, asks a question of NASA representatives. Encarnacion asked "What is the best way to stay safe in space?" (Photo: Michael K. Dakota, Lebanon Daily News)

(Undated) -- A NASA engineer paid a virtual visit to the fourth- and fifth-grade students of Northwest Elementary School for the school's Career Week Tuesday.

"This is the first time NASA gave a presentation for our Career Week," Ken Travis, counselor at the elementary school, said. "It was one of those things where I heard someone talking about NASA, and I thought, 'I wonder if they would be willing to provide a presentation for us?'"

A representative at NASA told Travis they would not be able to visit the school to give a presentation, but they could do one virtually, according to Travis.

"It was a pretty simple process setting everything up since we had most of the technology in place already," Travis said. "We needed a surround microphone, so they could hear questions, along with a special webcam."

NASA's presentation was given by Margaret Dominguez, an engineer specializing in optics, from the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. She was able to simultaneously broadcast and interact with three different classrooms.

Watch: Northwest aims for the stars Michael K. Dakota, Lebanon Daily News

Her slideshow presentation featured some pictures of her singing, dancing and acting when she was attending middle school in Mexico.

"The reason I'm showing you all pictures of me when I was doing extracurricular activities like singing, dancing and theater - things that don't seem very helpful at NASA - is because I know now they were really important (to my career)," Dominguez said. "Those activities gave me a lot of practice talking to other people and working as a team."

Communication skills are extremely important to a successful career, according to Dominguez.

"It doesn't matter if you become an engineer, a business person, an architect or whatever you decide to do, it is really important to be able to communicate effectively," Dominguez explained. "You get to practice communicating and being nice and polite when you participate in extracurricular activities, and those things will help you to do very well in your career."

The presentation also featured discussion on the computational, laboratory and mathematics skills needed to become an engineer with NASA, what kind of things NASA studies and the basics of telescopes and how they function. Dominguez also told the students she was working on a new space telescope project that would allow NASA to look deeper into space than ever before.

At the end of the presentation, children asked questions that ran the gamut from "Did you always want to work at NASA?" to "How do you study stars and planets without actually going into space?"

The NASA presentation is one of 11 career presentations planned for Career Week.

"We also have a person from PennDOT here today who is discussing 21st Century transportation, and we have someone talking about the culinary arts," Travis said. "Each day this week students will hear several different presentations about a variety of different careers."

Career Week is part of Lebanon School District's Career Development Program, which is meant to continue developing the types of skills and knowledge students will need to be successful in the 21st Century, according to Travis.

"For our career development program, there are three elements," Travis said. "First is the career development lessons. Second is exposure to professionals in the community who share information about their careers. Finally, in the fifth grade, a student will choose a career they are interested in and will research that career."

Students will have from the middle of January to the middle of May to research their chosen career, and then they will complete a project based on their research.

"They'll do a project involving all the information, graphs and things they have which will be placed on a tri-fold board, and then on May 25, they will set up in the cafeteria and dress as someone from their career would dress," Travis said. "They discuss the tools used in their career choice, what kind of education or training they need and their possible earning potential."

The point of the career development program is meant to get children thinking about career choices as early as possible, according to Travis.

"Our goal is to show students that there are very viable 21st Century careers," he said. "We want to start now in developing their interests in those careers."

This story is part of a partnership between WITF and the Lebanon Daily News.

Published in Lebanon, News

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