Home‎ > ‎


9th Week

posted Nov 9, 2014, 10:10 AM by Rebecca Vieyra



This week, a number of people from the sixth floor headed to Zhuhai, China for the annual IFAR summit. Because NASA is involved in a number of efforts to foster international collaboration in aeronautics, and is a member of both ICAS and IFAR, NASA employees from HQ actually travel quite a bit globally.  I am eager to hear some feedback on ideas for getting young aeronautics researchers to collaborate authentically with one another. 

Because one of my goals working at NASA is to help foster that international collaboration, I'm getting some tech training in Adobe Connect. This is actually quite helpful, because as I look to help plan and coordinate virtual conferences for young researchers, I am also gearing up to do nation-wide WebEx optional conferences for the AAPT eMentoring Program. We plan on having monthly meetings every 2nd Monday of the month, starting in January, to provide guidance and resources to both mentors and their mentees. At this point, the other co-coordinator and I have a number of awesome ideas for these WebEx conferences, but if you or someone you know, with physics education experience, would like to contribute as a guest speaker, please let me know! Our goal is to address the needs of mentors and mentees for how to seek out the best professional development and to take advantage of the mentoring process. We'd also like to put together a digital database for truly novice teachers. While there are great resources like Compadre,org, there are so many resources for students, high school teachers, and university faculty, that it can be really overwhelming. Further, there just don't seem to be too many resources out there that address the practical needs of teachers, like questions about lab safety or classroom management.

Another exciting update for this week is that I am continuing my development of Pre-K and High School Physics aeronautics curricula, I've gotten personal responses from a number of authors that I really admire, and permission to use their cover images (and, in same cases, their art) in the curriculum materials. I am particularly inspired by the authors of The Dandelion Seed, a beautiful, poetic book that follows a seed that glides along the air and takes its part in the circle of life. The husband and wife team, Joseph Anthony and Cris Arbo, author and illustrate the books. Mini Grey also responded to me about Egg Drop, and expressed her interest and excitement that her book was being used as an inspiration for Pre-K activities. I also heard from Leyla Torres, author of The Kite Festival, whose book exemplifies that everyone - no matter one's background - can be a part of the "Maker Movement" with only a pinch of creativity. MIT Press also responded to be on behalf of The Simple Science of Flight, whose book is high school student-appropriate and filled with beautiful and complex data for literacy and data analysis skill practice. I've already started going through the book and finding how it relates and supports basic physics concepts. If you are interested in seeing some of the book, MIT Press has made the first chapter free and is available here

Having received my large box of books from Civil Air Patrol as an educator member, I also now have resources to a variety of aerospace activities provided by them for my work on the rocketry curriculum for AIA/TARC/AAPT. Although there are plenty of hands-on activities, I guess that I am somewhat disappointed in the lack of connection to physical concepts. The only two relevant aspects that I found that could be directly related to what I have taught in physics is center of mass and force-time graphs (provided by Estes and other rocket engine companies). Even so, this is a place to start, along with the many and varied resources I gleaned from The Physics Teacher publication over the past thirty or so years. One of the things to which I decided to commit at the start of this fellowship is that I wanted to make something that would last, and, something that would get used. In the case both of aeronautics and rocketry, I can see a real niche not only within NASA's education community, but through the AAPT, NSTA, AIA, Boeing, CAP, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and perhaps even 4-H. These are all venues I want to explore as I finalize my work, because even beautiful curriculum is rather pointless unless there is an outlet where it is actively used.

Speaking of publications, on Thursday, an official Albert Einstein Fellowship event took place at the National Academies of Science, the overseeing organization for the equally well-known National Academies Press. We spent the full day guided through the NAS' activities, from its honorary societies (National Academy of Science, National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine), and from a variety of speakers from the branches of the National Research Council, including scientists dealing with global climate change, oceans, and science in the courtroom. As advisers to the Next Generation Science Standards, the day was richly filled with themes associated with the nature of science and science, technology, and society. A researcher from the IOM described the American mania regarding vaccines and Ebola, and Congress' request to the NAS as an independent, non-profit, NGO to develop reports regarding those topics, despite the overwhelming evidence that already exists supporting the use of vaccines in small children and the lack of evidence relating them to autism. A lawyer explained how judges -- who often have little science background -- are charged with deciding which forensic evidence will or will not be allowable, when the majority of "forensic science" has very little scientific or statistical evidence actually backing it. In contrast, scientists who find themselves in the midst of patent suits or federal demands to stop research (for perceived ethical or safety concerns, even if there are none), often don't know how to defend themselves from a legalistic standpoint. The NAS offers some supports to help bridge that gap between scientists ignorant about law, and law practitioners and juries ignorant about science. Further, law makers need to make decisions "today" regarding innocence or guilt, while the practice of science demands that scientists refrain from making conclusions at all without significant evidence on way or the other. The mind-set is very different. In all, this was a fascinating day, which concluded with a visit to the Koshland Science Museum.

On Friday afternoon, the Einstein Fellows again gathered for the First Friday meeting, led by two of the Einstein Fellows on particular topics of interest. In this case, we took a look at the historical development of the NGSS and examples of their effective application in the classroom. Although I had seen the trends, I wasn't aware that the AAAS' publication Science for All Americans was used to directly influence the National Science Education Standards (which were adopted by exactly 0 states), which then were used to influence the NGSS (which have been adoopted by 11 states...). In all, federal efforts in education really do seem abysmal. The good thing we got out the activity was a really neat lesson regarding interacting variables dealing with climate change. As "students," we had to determine what relationships were apparent based upon the given data, then meet up with other groups to see how our relationships inter-related. This was a fantastic activity, but it did leave me wondering a bit about large-scale data analysis.

1) There are loads of national and international databases available for teachers, students, and the general public to use for studies dealing with biology, ecology, climate, etc. However, students don't get any sense of reliability or validity of the data, because they aren't involved in the data collection process. In contrast, they do get to look at long-term, messy data, and I like that!

2) There are almost no equivalent databases for studies dealing with physics -- after all, chemistry and physics (at the introductory level) are pretty static. Newtonian physics is Newtonian physics is Newtonian physics, right? The benefit of physics is that students do get to collect their own data and analyze its precision, accuracy, reliability, and validity, but their work is very focused, and they don't get to see large data sets.

Fortunately, during my discussion with Danielle Spaete, fellow eMentoring co-coordinator, she introduced me to crowd sourcing for data collection. Read more about it on my Google+ post to the left. I am absolutely inspired by her idea, and would love to see teachers around the world crowd sourcing their data!!!

Lastly, I continue my work on Google. The online course I am teaching for D155 is going very smoothly. Now on Unit 4, I've developed a Google Site as a hub for our experiences, and as an interactive place for one of their assignments dealing with how to use and implement Google Sites. You can visit it by clicking on the link to the left. As I plan for #GTAATX to become a Google Certified Teacher, I'm also looking now into becoming a Google Educator Trainer (GET), which, effectively, is a stamp of approval from Google saying that yes, I can train people effectively in Google Apps for Education tools. The application is due November 21st, so now I have a bit more on my plate! The work never quite ends.


8th Week

posted Nov 1, 2014, 5:51 PM by Rebecca Vieyra

I began this week with an invitation from another Einstein fellow's sponsor at NASA Goddard to attend the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) summit. Co-hosted by the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE), I was an invited guest at the educational forum this past Monday. Although this was a relatively passive event for me, it was an opportunity to meet key players in educational technology from many stations around the nation, and to interact with sponsors and affiliates from the private sector.

I heard panelists discuss topics such as digital privacy and security, state-led online learning systems, and the technological divide between generations and districts. Most importantly, at a networking session following the forum, I got a chance to speak directly with Jonathan Rochelle, co-founder of Google Docs & Drive, who was there representing Google for Education. I shared some of my enthusiasm with him for Google Play for Education, and expressed my hope to see Google for Education really begin to address the needs of specific teachers through technological pedagogical content knowledge. I was insistent that perhaps Google might need my expertise in the "near" future. ;-)

I also met Matt Anthes-Washburn of Vernier, and we discussed my husband's apps and their potential role in the marketplace for science education in the future. I think there is a lot of excitement out there regarding the capabilities of mobile devices. Even at this moment, my husband is seeking input from me about developing a stroboscope. That app alone could save high school physics teachers thousands of dollars across the nation! A quality stroboscope for motion activities usually run at about $300-$500. Why purchase a specialty device when you can have it for free on your phone? Likewise, I was persistent that perhaps Vernier might like to collaborate with us in the future. I will say, this discussion did lead to my making a number of phones calls to Vernier later in the week on a somewhat unrelated matter -- namely, the acquisition of a fan cart on 2-D moving wheels (which currently doesn't exist), as well as resources for fluid dynamics. With regard to the three individuals with whom I spoke this week, I was absolutely delighted to find that everyone was engaging, intelligent, had high school physics teaching experience, and were beyond helpful -- one of them even followed-up with a number of awesome resources for teaching aeronautical physics. Those resources led me to finding a retired high school physics/aeronautics teacher (Ron Bowerman) by calling his school, getting transferred to his wife -- who still teachers at the school, to getting his personal phone number and to talking with him on the phone for about an hour about my work at NASA.

One thing I am learning here in DC is that it is a very, very small world when it comes to education. Despite my enjoying the SETDA summit, I will admit that I have yet to encounter a situation so novel to me that I, "feel like I've been living my whole life under a rock," as some Einstein fellows describe their mind-opening experiences. Frankly, I don't feel any lack of confidence when it comes to speaking about issues with regard to technology or science education. Again, in the words of another of my Einstein colleagues, "This nation is run by 20-somethings." Beyond the fact that congresspersons are largely absent, and depend significantly upon what their staffers tell them, it is apparent that a lot of people in educational policy haven't actually been in education. It is easy for these kinds of people to say a lot without saying anything at all... And, apparently, there are lots of NGO's and federal agencies that do the same thing, prepare similar documents, and then each expend their own resources to try to publicize them and make them worthwhile. It's as though everyone is fighting for legitimacy, but the lack of teamwork makes it all a bit...pointless, perhaps? My question is where I fit into it all in the grand scheme of things.   

The good news is, I do appear to be running in all of the right circles, when it comes to networking. The moment Jonathan Rochelle of Google mentioned that I might try getting in contact with Shazia Makhdumi, I was glad to be able to say that we've already had some exchanges regarding Google Play for Education. In like manner, my name has apparently come up twice with an Einstein Fellow of mine, Mary Patterson. She was back at home visiting Austin a few weeks ago, when she ran into a technology director at her district who will be attending the Google Teacher Academy in December with me. Mary again heard my name at an NSF review panel in a discussion with Jodi Asbell-Clarke, principal investigator in education through gaming. I've had numerous interactions with Jodi regarding using Edge's games (particularly Impulse and Quantum Spectre) in my physics and physical science classrooms, and we worked collaboratively to write an article that I hope to soon see published in a major science education journal. So, I figure I can count Dr. Jodi as my "virtual friend," although we have never met in person. (We had hoped to get together last-minute, but things ran long at the panel! Next time!)

Wednesday night was also a fantastic time to network, as I was invited by Susan Lavrakas of Aerospace Industries Association (who I met a few weeks back on behalf of the American Association of Physics Teachers to discuss developing high school physics rocketry curriculum for Team America Rocketry Challenge) to gather for the STEM Leading Ladies Happy Hour. I initially met Susan at her office, and I wasn't aware of her reach as a leader in STEM education until that night. I very much look forward to our future interactions through TARC/AAPT as well as through the Einstein Fellowship.

On Thursday I had the wonderful opportunity to go out to lunch with Beth Cunningham, Chief Executive Officer of the American Association of Physics Teachers (and to catch up with a number of fantastic individuals in the AAPT office). I view Beth as one of my mentors in my career, and while I wasn't able to make any career-changing decisions within the span of our lunch, it was good to be able to verbalize a lot of what I want to do with my life. It was also wonderful to hear from her, and to recognize that she also evaluates and re-evaluates her life's role professionally. I think the lesson learned is that successful people are committed to a mission, but open to significant change. (And, that commitment to a mission does not necessarily imply life-long commitment to a job. For everyone's sake, sometimes it is best to move on, and let others change as well!)

I recognize that I'm doing a lot of name-dropping (but isn't that part of the point of coming to DC?) There's only so much I can do on my own, and it's frequently said that it doesn't matter so much WHAT one knows as WHO one knows. Certainly, I need them both, and I'm excited at the potential of what I can do and who I can become in the future, if I surround myself with stimulating people who can help me to be more than I am on my own.

On the note of the AAPT, I am proud share the newly re-designed AAPT eMentoring brochure (see to the left). With input from the past and current eMentoring coordinators, including myself, and the awesome design skills of AAPT artists, we now have a tri-fold brochure. I have been sharing it digitally, but I also will be sharing at the High School Teacher Luncheon at the AAPT meeting in January. I was also notified a few days ago that my presentation, "Free Mobile Device Apps for Data Collection and Analysis" was accepted. Beyond that, I will be hosting a table with lab examples from the activities and unit plans I am developing using resources from the AAPT's The Physics Teacher magazine, as well as correlated materials from NASA research that will relate to each of the lessons. 

In other news, I've completed my Coaching Digital Learning course as well as my Saving Schools Mini Course: Part 1 (see certificate), and I've now started Saving Schools Mini Course: Part 2. While I haven't learn anything drastic about education that I didn't know before, it has been nice seeing education from both a historic as well as a national level. I presume that I am learning a number of things that I would have learned had I gotten an administrator's licence. The concepts are all nice to know with regard to policy and "big picture" items.

Actually, I know that I don't write much about my involvement at NASA, but I can assure you that I am quite busy, and quite connected. in fact, most of the above is rather "peanuts" in comparison to the very exciting things I'm doing in the office. I hope to share more when it becomes public. I will say, however, that I am developing quite a stack of items in my office that I hope to be "key pieces" of my contribution to NASA Aeronautics. physics education, educational technology, and even Pre-K and library/informal education. I really am having a wonderful time. As I regularly tell people, my sponsor and everyone in NASA Aeronautics make me feel important...and more than that, I really do think that I am important to them. I don't say this so much to boast about myself, but I think it really says something wonderful about management and administration when they ask you to dream big, help you to make it happen, and play a part in making your life really authentic, and really worthwhile.

Seventh Week

posted Oct 22, 2014, 5:00 PM by Rebecca Vieyra

This was a week of education and public outreach. My whole family traveled up to Hagerstown, VA, to visit the Highland View Academy boarding school for their STEMFEST. The current technology director, Ophelia, was an Albert Einstein Fellow Last year, and reached out to us to support her school's program. Although the turnout from the community was small, I was impressed with the quality and uniqueness of many of the STEM organizations and agencies represented. I took with me a number of resources to promote NASA-ARMD's campaign to make the general public (and politicians) aware of the value of aeronautics research to society and economy. I took a variety of hands-on activities to help students learn about the concept of lift.

This week also allowed me to be very active through social media. NASA-ARMD will be starting its new campaign with a social media event at Armstrong on November 18th, and then celebrating the centennial of NACA on March 6th, 2015. Follow @NASAAero on Twitter, and tag any posts with #FlyNASA. I am currently working on a number of education-related projects that I hope to soon be able to share!

I also was able to connect internationally in yet another way. As mentioned in one of my earlier posts, NASA is just one of 24 member organizations of IFAR. I was able to take part in an international teleconference very early in the morning to spearhead some projects for young researchers in aeronautics. I hope to see a number of these projects come to fruition not long after the IFAR Summit to be held this November in Zhuhai, China.

On the technology front, I just completed two online courses as a student (MOOCEd Coaching Digital Learning and edX Saving Schools Mini Course - Part 1), and I am still running my Google Apps I Online course for District 155, and we are now entering into Unit 2 (of five). Participants in my course are working through the Google for Education "Google Educator" coursework, and then applying their understanding to a variety of projects that I am assessing and evaluating. It is interesting to see the varying levels of ability that still exist after our district has adopted Google Apps for Education since about three years ago.

I also received some good new from Google, as I was accepted to the Austin, TX Google Teacher Academy from December 2-3. This is a big honor, as many people have to apply two or three times to get accepted, and this was my first attempt. This is an event that occurs at one of the Google offices around the world a few times a year, with an acceptance of about 50 individuals. Graduates are labeled "Google Certified Teachers," and may display a special icon on their Google+ profile. It is not entirely clear what happens at these events, but some of the agenda items prove quite interesting. I'm not sure if this is the case at all Google offices, but rumor has it that participants are even escorted to the bathroom, due to security measures. (I've already had to sign a non-disclosure agreement...). 

Near the end of this week, I was exceptionally busy. I taught two lessons at my daughter's pre-school, this time focusing on Parachutes to teach about the concepts of air friction and viscosity, and then on Gliders to teach about the concept of lift. I am fortunate that Therese is a patient learner, even allowing me to load up her bike carriage with extra materials for the lessons.

On Thursday night, the US Patent Office invited me and a number of other agencies at the Noche de Ciencias at TC Williams High School in Alexandria, VA. Again, this was a small group, but I made some wonderful contacts with community members, the head of the local library children's programs, and the high school physics teacher, who offered to help me try out some of my high school activities in her classroom. I was also accompanied by a colleague from the Aeronautics Industries Association to represent the Team America Rocketry Challenge, as well as one other Einstein Fellow from the Department of Energy.

Lastly, one of our very long-standing members at NASA-ARMD retired after about 30 years of service, and a special party was held in his honor. Jaiwon, the head of ARMD, was present to give a speech and to host the event.

Other projects I am currently working on include the AAPT eMentoring Program, developing high school physics activities for NASA-ARMD and the AAPT, and developing high school rocketry activities for AIA/TARC and the AAPT. This kind of collaboration is invigorating!

GTA Press Release

Fourth - Sixth Week at NASA ARMD

posted Oct 18, 2014, 6:33 PM by Rebecca Vieyra

I've had another few very busy weeks. I had anticipated having some personal time to work on my projects while in my directed work at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, but I was actually busier there than I've been here at home.

Some of the projects I have continued to work on include my EdX Saving Schools and MOOCEd Coaching Digital Learning online courses. I've created a few projects, including a Lino.it board about the TPACK and SAMR models of technology education, and a Powtoon video about the 3 R's and 4 C's and their integration with digital literacy, as per the Partnership for 21st Century Skills. A lot of the coursework I have been doing has simply given a formal name to concepts that I was well aware of -- that the use of technology in physics is very specialized  in comparison to general education, or even "science" education...this is the idea of technological pedagogical content knowledge. It also got me thinking about the SAMR model, and how we aim to implement technology. Frankly, if we're just using it as a substitute instead of a way to revolutionize the way we teach and assess, then it's not really not worth it!

In discussing technology, I was sent out on "directed" work to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta from October 2-13. It was a long time to be away from home, but I did get the opportunity to try out some new things on the flights. Using Physics Toolbox Apps produced by my husband, Using the magnetometer, I was able to record the changes in magnetic field, a quantitative example of something published in The Physics Teacher a few decades ago: Exercise Your Physics When Flying. Can you figure out, from the strength and magnitude of the field, which directions the plane was turning? Other screen captures demonstrate the acceleration of the plane -- two of the following three are demonstrated: take-off, ascension, and landing. Which is which?

Out at the Balloon Fiesta, I was tasked with the NASA Education cart to show children and adults the effects of low pressure on the human body, if a pressure suit is not worn. I will admit, after only a single session, I had enough fun showing off the vacuum chamber with marshmallow peeps, balloons, and boiling water. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I was much more excited by interacting with adults (young and mature) than with smaller children. Adults are so much more "certain" of what they know -- even to the point of re-assuring their children that their own ideas are absolutely correct, despite the fact that their children might have a more proper intuition. There are a number of things one can demonstrate and discuss to really enhance conceptual understanding of pressure/force, phase changes, molecular interactions, and thermodynamics. I will admit, even a number of scientists and engineers with whom I interacted were dumbfounded by some of the concepts. 

All that being said, despite the 4 AM wake-ups to beat the traffic and to see the dawn patrol, being at the Balloon Fiesta was one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. Hopefully you are following my Facebook page, where most of my pictures were posted. Every sunlit angle dramatically changed the perspective of the balloons. From the cold inflation to the propane lighting, to the mass ascension to the night "glowdeos," to the competitions, to the special shapes, it was really fantastic. A number of foreign nations were very well represented (Brazil, Switzerland, Germany, South Africa, England, etc.). Only one balloon caught on fire, and I got an interesting video the moment it happened. Fortunately, it happened close to the ground, with no casualties.

Of the 11 days in Albuquerque, I did have three afternoons "off" to visit a number of natural and man-made sites, including the Sandia Mountain and the Petroglyphs. Off to the side, you can see an image of the Sandia tramway with its two towers, and a corresponding pressure graph I collected with Physics Toolbox Barometer. Pressure graphs give a wonderful "inversion" image, and really make students think about what is happening, and why.

Upon my return to DC, I continued my investigations with barometric pressure. As Therese and I prepared for a special "balloons" lesson for her pre-school class, we had to go on quite an adventure to get latex-free (mylar) balloons. As our ears popped on the metro, I collected some data, which shows some minor variations in pressure. (Question: Is this data from the metro train when it is above or below ground?) I got to thinking about a particularly interesting question...as Therese holds the balloons in her hand, and as the pressure increases, how does the tension in the string change? Why? The answer is not nearly as simple as one might anticipate! Consider density of the air inside and outside of the balloons, buoyancy, volume of the balloons, etc. Keep in mind that accelerations of the metro (positive or negative) might also result in changes in fluid density of the air surrounding the balloon. The associated graphs were collected during constant velocity motion of the metro.

I should mention, I worked on two other tasks while in Albuquerque, which made my trip perhaps a bit less leisurely than it could have been (although that would have been difficult anyway, working from 4AM to 11 AM, and again from 3PM to 7PM). I am currently eagerly awaiting a response from Google for Education about my application to the Google Certified Teacher conference in August, December 2-3. One of my required submissions as part of my application was a 1-minute video about how I am innovative with technology, and how I use my innovation to create positive change in my classroom or educational community. First of all, opted to not use any kind of software like PowToon, to preserve originality. I quickly became adept at the YouTube Video Editor, but this was a challenge on the Motel Six "high speed" internet. I probably spent as much time doing the edits as I did waiting for the video to stream. In any case, I'm hoping the video demonstrates my varied and unique background in using sensor apps, which is something that really hasn't yet taken hold in the educational community, but is firmly embraced by those who know about it. In addition to the currently existing 13 apps that my husband has, I just got the new Galaxy Note 4, which has a heart rate sensor, oxygen saturation sensor, fingerprint "swipe" sensor, and even a UV sensor. I'm also eager to see my husband develop an app to create a stroboscope (to determine the rotational frequency on a toy helicopter, to compare it to the lift generated by it on an electronic balance) and an FFT sound analyzer (to estimate the speed of an aircraft based on its Doppler shift). There are so many possibilities with mobile devices!

Yet another project I have been working on during my personal time is the Google Classroom District 155 Google Apps I course, which just started on October 15th, and will run for six weeks until November 25th. This is really a pilot opportunity for me, and is the first in-house graduate course offered by my district online. I have 20 students, and it is surprising how much set up running an online course takes. There is a normal divide that one initially feels with online courses, but I hope to soon have that overcome by doing a variety of collaborative activities between participants to build a real learning community, including sharing docs, doing Google Hangouts, sending each other e-mails, having discussions on Google Groups, building a Google Site, etc. You can see my welcome video that I created a few nights ago, down to the lower right.

As part of my NASA duties, in conjunction with my parent duties at the Capitol Hill Learning Group pre-school where my daughter attends, I started and will be teaching a unit on aeronautics. Quite appropriately, this past Friday I gave students a lesson on balloons, as the first real, successful attempt at air flight. We read two books (Pip and Posy and Hot Air). We first learned about sinking and floating by building boats and seeing how many pennies they could hold (Therese got first place, with 21 pennies! Of her seven classmates, no one even passed 9 pennies!). After reading Hot Air, we used mylar balloons with different inflation levels to place as many animals as possible into the basket (to model the crew of the first hot air balloon, which included a sheep, a rooster, and a duck). Students found that the less inflated balloons held fewer animals of equivalent size, but that we could increase the number of animals by putting in more of the smaller animals, such as ducks, instead of sheep. With latex balloons, it would have been great to simply change the direct volume of the balloons. We then inflated and floated a "hot air balloon" with a Chinese lantern I found at the Fiesta. Students seemed to have a great time, and took home a lot of NASA swag after working on their NASA Aeronautics literacy books and practicing the letter "B." Over the next few weeks, I plan to bring in lessons about Gliders, Airplanes, and Rockets. Hopefully, these lessons will become formalized and support NASA Aeronautics Education for pre-K teachers.

Third Week at NASA ARMD

posted Sep 25, 2014, 7:15 PM by Rebecca Vieyra

Massive Open Online Courses for Educators



A colleague of mine said that he felt like he was jumping between projects ever 30 seconds. I feel the same way. There has been an initial excitement about all of these great beginnings, but now I begin to pressure myself to bring so many of these things to fruition. While I want to stay on track, I feel slightly bothered by the interruptions that come my way on a daily basis, especially if they signify more "opportunities." I have chosen my path, now it's time to really begin the journey, and to remain focused.

I am quite lucky to be surrounded by colleagues who support me, however, and understand that even undivided attention needs regular breaks in order to maintain one's efficiency. One of my colleagues, Pam Krauss, took me out to the National Symphony Opera's opening gala at the Kennedy Center. The promenade along the river behind the center overlooks a long span of the Potomac, and allowed for this beautiful image of sunbeams and planes as they took off from Reagan National Airport. I tweeted the image to @NASAAero, and they asked me if I wouldn't mind sharing the rights to the image with them. My photo should be displayed on the NASA Aeronautics website at some point -- I'll post it when and if that happens!

The week began with a NASA-ARMD retreat. Essentially, all essential ARMD HQ personnel got together to learn about our mission directorate's direction and ongoing projects. It was exciting to meet individuals from around the nation with whom I have only regularly spoken by phone on telecons. In particular, I was delighted to receive a personal invitation out to Ames to see real science and engineering in action. As a group, we also learned about our personal "change style." Between the range of "conservator" and "innovator," I feel more on the innovator style. Supposedly, I like to "dream big" and see the "big picture," but don't tend to pay attention as much to the details or the implementation. That's odd...because I usually like to run the whole gamut from start to finish, with the big picture and the details both in mind, and in my control. If anything, my take-away is that I am part of something much bigger than myself, and that I'm probably going to need a much larger team to change the direction of education. With that, I need to give away some responsibility. This whole experience with politics, agency, and management helps me to really see the administrative side of working with people that I didn't normally experience as a teacher in a fairly isolated classroom.

With all of this in mind, I continue to work on my big projects, 1) working on a variety of small projects associated with the 100 year NACA anniversary, 2) developing collaborative virtual conference and discussion/research opportunities for the International Forum for Aviation Research (http://www.ifar.aero/) Young Researchers Network (IFAR YRN), of which NASA and 23 other nation's aviation agencies are involved. Specifically, I am being asked to coordinate ongoing collaborative opportunities and virtual conferences globally -- a direction I really am excited about. IFAR also has a social networking site, IFARLink (https://ifarlink.aero/), for which I have been asked to provide feedback. I am excited to involve myself in international aspects of education -- this really is about global education.

Talking about collaboration, my proposal to District 155 for an online Google Apps course using Google Classroom as the delivery platform has been accepted! I should begin teaching/managing the course on October 15th, assuming there is sufficient interest. Over a period of six weeks, teacher-students will go through Google for Education's five modules (http://www.google.com/edu/training/certifications/). Teachers will primarily use Google's training guides, but then they will implement their learning for the five modules in a context relevant to their teaching, that requires them to collaborate with their colleagues and overseen by me. Teachers will then have the option to become Google Educator Certified. I am excited for this very formal opportunity to provide leadership to my district.

I am also hoping that this formal experience will provide me with some more credibility for the Google Teacher Academy that will be taking place in Austin, TX from December 2-3. Google Teacher Academies are held around the world, with the intent to develop teacher-educators who can be leaders in Google for Education tools. I now have to complete another rather lengthy application form, including a 1-minute instructional video. What I am hoping will set me apart is my emphasis on the use of mobile device sensors in the STEM classroom. There has been a lot of hoopla recently about Google Classroom and Google Apps for Education in general, but the movement for Google Play for Education with Tablets has somewhat died down. I think the potential is still there for STEM classrooms -- Chrome and Chromebooks simply do not offer the same in-device data collection and sensing capabilities as do tablets, smart phones, Android wear (i.e. watches), or Google Glasses. There really isn't any support to keep track of valuable apps or their application in the learning environment. As a result, I decided to create a new Google+ Community, Mobile Sensor Apps for Learning (https://plus.google.com/communities/117493961647466126964). Please feel free to join and contribute to my Google+ Community! I would like to use this spot to have people post how they are using mobile sensor apps, including their lesson ideas, tricks, and techniques. My husband, of Vieyra Software, regularly receives e-mails from inspirational individuals who find creative ways to use his apps, including, most recently, a man who uses Physics Toolbox Suite to collect data as he does body gliding (in a body gliding suit). Another Einstein Fellow colleague of mine has also begun to use it during her aviation acrobatics course, as well as while plane gliding.

Part of my personal professional development this year in regards to technology is to be involved in courses for myself. I signed up for two free courses. Right now, I'm taking a MOOC-Ed, Coaching Digital Learning, a course for people such as myself, who try to provide technology education to others. I am working on a professional development plan, and it has been the source of inspiration for doing things such as creating my personal learning network on Google+, and for thinking about how to patiently approach teachers who are averse to learning new technology. In a more policy front, I am taking the first of a series of EdX courses from a Harvard professor, "Saving Schools." We are looking at the history and politics of US education, including international comparisons in performance, the role of boards of education, and revolutions in instructional approaches to teaching. While I already knew a lot of these things, and think I am in a large pool of people who often don't have formal experiences in education as teachers/administrators themselves, I am seeing that there is significant interest in education from people who are outside of it. I can see where educational theory and policy clash with reality. I feel grateful that I have had experiences as a real teacher. (On a side note, I keep hearing very negative things about Teach for America. While I have often been skeptical of the program's foundations, it has become blatantly clear here in DC that teaching with Teach for America is little more than a "bullet point" on many a young politician's resume. Yikes -- do our kids really deserve that?)

Back to my work for NASA-ARMD, I want to develop both a mechanics and an electricity and magnetism set of course ware that can be used to teach -- and develop -- classic physics principles and concepts through the context of aviation and aeronautics. Kaye Ebelt, another Einstein Fellow, is quite equipped to share these resources with me, so I was suggested to become a Civil Air Patrol Aerospace Education Member. I joined, and just yesterday received a large package with probably about 30 pounds of textbooks, reference guides, and aeronautics activities for K-12. While none of these really have what I am looking for as a physics teacher, they have some really excellent resources for teaching about flight and aerospace. What this means to me is that I have found a niche in the educational community to build authentic partnerships between aerospace interested organizations and the AAPT/PTRA programs. I am currently working on these aforementioned curricula, but they only encompass flight of planes and helicopters.

Surprisingly, rocketry has been removed from NASA-ARMD's scope. Even so, I plan to also pursue the development of a number of physics education models dealing with rocketry. This comes as a personal request from the American Association of Physics Teachers, through the Aerospace Industries Association, the major sponsoring partner in the Team America Rocketry Challenge. I visited the AIA on Thursday to learn more about what they are expecting from me. Essentially, they want to see rocketry validated as a useful -- read, not superficial -- part of the physics classroom. I agree wholeheartedly, and, as a TARC team captain myself in high school, felt that there was a lack of supportive, scientifically-based resources to help me do anything other than guess-and-check. While TARC now has a very extensive team guide, they are looking for outreach and presence in the physics community -- something I think I would have really enjoyed as a teacher. It has been wonderful networking with aerospace industries and agencies, and physics teacher education organizations for authentic advancement in education.

There are also a number of other perks that come with being within a federal agency. I received a ticket to the Motion Picture Association of America to preview The Theory of Everything, a movie about the life of Stephen Hawking. The invitation to NASA members to preview the movie came directly from Lucy Hawking, daughter of Stephen Hawking. The movie was emotional and inspiring. It was definitely worth the late night. However, the following evening, my whole family got complimentary tickets from some NSF employees who were unable to go, to go to a Nationals' baseball game with a number of my other fellows. Again, it was another late night, but a new experience for all of my family, as we are not much of sport-watchers.

On Friday, I invited fellow Einstein Fellow and aviator Kaye Ebelt to accompany me to Francis L. Cardozo High School in DC, one of the few high schools in the nation to offer aviation and aeronautics education as a career pathway. We were both absolutely awe-struck by the investment in their specialized programs of many types. They are the prime example of a school that uses community resources (funds, educational experts, industry members, places) and expert educators to helps their students achieve real success in school and in the workplace. Teachers within the pathways teach three 80-minute sections every day, and most technical courses do not exceed 18 students per class! I know that many teachers would be much, much more successful with those supports alone. While I do advocate for traditional teacher education programs (i.e. no short-term programs that provide insufficient support), some of their technical teachers come in with real experience in industry. The particular teacher we met had over 20 years of experience as a technician in the military. He understands where his students are meant to go, and works with industrial programs to get students "beyond college-ready," to the point that they leave high school with real certifications that prepare them for jobs.

Despite all of this, I think that we still need to improve ourselves, as a nation, at the fundamental level. Most schools can't get move "beyond college-preparation," when their students aren't staying in high school or motivated to pursue professions after high school. Most schools have a hard enough time funding their standard science programs, labs, etc. Many teacher struggle -- whether they know it or not -- with providing quality science education that meets the standards. How can we expect teachers to come into classrooms for the first time, ready to teach STEM, when they are struggling with the fundamental science pedagogy itself? I think, as a nation, sometimes we forget that we need to solve the first problem, before we begin to solve the next.


Second Week at NASA-ARMD

posted Sep 16, 2014, 5:32 PM by Rebecca Vieyra   [ updated Apr 28, 2015, 2:50 PM ]


National Electronics Museum, Inc. - History of the Nation's Defense Electronics

front page of publication

@EinsteinFellows #MillenialPathways Honorable Rep. Cardenas encourages foreign language (including computer languages) in early education.
Hon. Rep. Tony Cardenas

Hon. Cecilia Munoz, Assistant to the President, 
Director of the Domestic Policy Council

I am there in the front in the red and white blouse!

There continue to be many, many exciting developments in my fellowship! I have been working intensely to get to know the many resources offered by NASA-ARMD. One of the fun little things I have found is "NASA Aeronautics Research Onboard" interactive simulation. Check out the link to the left. There are also a variety of lithographs available showing NASA's contributions to aviation: http://www.nasa.gov/aero/nasa-aero-lithographs.html#.VBt5LTjF-uQ 

My personal goal is to determine how to make these topics relevant to high school teachers and their students. One of the more interesting and cutting-edge activities is NASA's work with the Boeing EcoDemonstrator, including work dealing with efficient air traffic control, the prevention of bug crud build up (yes, really...it significantly impacts drag), and the use of air jets to modify the required size for the back tail of most airplanes, which are useful for take-off, but really a drag during cruising. Read more about it here: http://www.nasa.gov/aero/green-aviation-global-airline.html#.VBt5iTjF-uQ I have been really enjoying getting to see how science, engineering, industry, and government all work together to make significant changes in our world! Don't forget to follow @NASAAero for Twitter updates on aerospace projects at NASA!

NASA has also done some awesome work in developing resources for the study of air traffic control in the context of math. I'm hoping to bring this to the wider physics education community, because it has lots of value. Smart Skies (http://smartskies.nasa.gov/) has two middle-school units, Fly by Math (in which students determine if planes will collide, when, and where, doing kinesthetic activities and 6 mathematical approaches to solve the problems, along with an online simulation), and Line up with Math (in which students have to use either a computer simulation or an app to properly line up two or three planes with the most efficient, but safe, distance, and do so in the least amount of time). Check out the Sector 33 app on the iTunes or Android store. To the newbie, it can be quite a challenge, because it's not necessarily intuitive for the players.

I've found plenty of other sources of inspiration for high school appropriate physics outside of NASA too! At the Maker Faire at Silver Springs, I came across the National Electronics Museum, based in Baltimore, as they had a demonstration table set up. What a resource! I'm hoping to learn more about how NASA has contributed to electronics. My end goal is to produce solid, context-based curriculum in both Mechanics and Electricity & Magnetism. I am hoping to hold a meeting with the director of the museum within the next few days to see if we might be able to form a mutually beneficial relationship.

Another thing I've been really enjoying are the phone calls...the seekers! Normally, in a high school setting, it can be pretty isolating, even in the most collaborative climate. Frankly, I rarely used the phone to contact people, but I feel like it has been ringing off the hook. Communication is absolutely #1 now... In any case, the American Association of Physics Teachers is a partner with the Team America Rocketry Challenge (which also partners with the Aerospace Industries Association). I received a phone call from the AIA asking if, in my position at NASA, I might be able to help develop high school curricular resources for teaching about rocketry. While rocketry no longer falls under the umbrella of NASA-ARMD, I figure I'll give it a try. I actually served as a team captain in high school for the Team America Rocketry Challenge...and I was pretty pathetic at it. I figure this might be my chance to make up for it! I asked the AIA if they had any current resources. They listed that they have been working with the Air Force STEM Outreach Office (?), Air Force Jr. ROTC, and Civil Air Patrol, but that they were really hoping that I could help. Here's the funny thing...I just spent my first week at NASA looking for aeronautics resources, and I was recommended to review (and I did!) all of the resources from the Air Force Jr. ROTC and the Civil Air Patrol. Granted, I was looking primarily for aviation materials, not rocketry materials, but it often falls in the same category. It just seems ironic that the exact places I go looking for materials, and don't quite find what I'm looking for, that they return to me. At least, I feel that it is a confirmation of what I expected -- that there aren't really any solid curricular materials in those areas that are relevant to physics education. I'm hoping that I've really found a niche where I can make a significant impact. Fortunately, I feel like I've got cheerleaders all around me. I'm not the only one looking to develop these materials.

My interest really lies with high school, but I'm also enticed by the idea of early education as well. One of the second-year fellows is a preschool teacher by trade, and she has made it very apparent from the beginning that preschool teachers are often very much overlooked when it comes to science education. (After all, how does one teach "engineering" to 4 year olds?) Between that, and my invitation to the Capitol Hill Learning Group, where my daughter, Therese goes to school, I think I've also found another niche that needs a bit of filling (for physical science in general, not just aeronautics). I was also spurred on by the absolutely delightful experience I had reading my daughter a series of books a few weeks ago entitled "Max Goes to...the Moon, the Space Station, Mars, Jupiter..." by Jeffery Bennett. These are children's books that are readable to small children, supplemented with details in side-bars for older children and adults, colorfully painted, and filled with a sense of absolute awe for discovery. They made me shudder. Plus, they actually had scientific information explained clearly, concisely, and accurately. Astronauts (and Max, the dog) were NOT described as experiencing "0 g" or "microgravity," as is so erroneously described even by major industries and agencies. Centripetal acceleration and orbit were described to absolute perfection. In fact, I was so inspired by the books, hoping to see that the author might soon write a "Max Goes...in an airplane, helicopter, etc.," that I decided to drop him an e-mail. To my surprise, he wrote back -- within about 5 minutes. He is an astrophysics (and, a surprise to me, a previous employee of NASA, at HQ). Of course, I shared the delightful news with my sponsor, who said that Dr. Bennett was a good friend of his. Having seen what children's literature can do, now I want to write a book too!

So, I decided to see what NASA has written for children. One of the most recent books published is "The Air We Breathe," an ode to the atmosphere. Today I had a phone conversation with one of the editors/reviewers to speak about the publication process and associated educational outreach. Perhaps what I love most about my current position as an Einstein Fellow is the exposure -- I am learning about the science of aeronautics, the beauty and impact of flight, teaching physics in context, along with marketing, publishing, and communicating. I'm truly blessed to be surrounded by people who are such resources. 

If all of this were not enough, yesterday, my birthday, I treated myself to a meeting with the Physics Education Research Group at the University of Maryland. I met Dr. Redish and Dr. Elby, the heads Ph.D. in physics (physics education research) and Ph.D. in science education programs. Dr. Redish, in particular, is well-known in the physics education community, and it was, again, a wonderful experience to sit down and have a cup of tea with the widely-traveled professor and author of a number of significant publications. He is on his sabbatical year, but comes back to the university on Wednesdays. Imagine that...one sabbatical year every 6 years, since the 1980's. THAT is the perk of being a university professor -- one can actually accomplish something with one's life! In a way, I related to him. This is MY year to pursue what I am passionate about. This is MY year to put a stamp on my achievements. It's an exhilarating feeling.

I am also looking at a number of other universities for potential Ph.D. in Physics Education. I have in-person meetings scheduled with Georgetown and Johns Hopkins, as well as a phone conversation with a professor at the University of Colorado-Boulder. I've also been suggested to look more deeply at the University of Washington and Rutgers. Even so, I'm not sure if I'm willing to commit 4-6 years of my life to being a student again.

The silly thing is, it's only Thursday night, and this isn't even half of what I've been working on. Only today I attended a small meeting with a variety of government personnel about education, including a variety of well-known individuals. Tomorrow I will visit the National Academy of Sciences to see the meeting of the President's Council of Advisers on Science and Technology (PCAST). 

Sector 33 App Icon

Sector 33 App


First Week at NASA-ARMD

posted Sep 11, 2014, 5:28 PM by Rebecca Vieyra

NASA: With You When You Fly.

National Science Foundation - Computer & Information Science & Engineering (CISE)

They say that the pinnacle of the gaming experience is when one has entered "flow." The meaning of flow is oxymoronic, because it is the point at which you absolutely desire to get to the end of the game and accomplish your goal...but you are loving the moment so much that you actually hope you don't get there anytime soon. Jane McGonigal expresses it very well in her book, Reality is Broken, and draws analogies between gaming and real-life, if there even is a difference at all. Needless to say, I think this year will be a year of "flow" for me. It's a bit as though the dam gate has opened, and everything is pouring in all at once, and it's coming right for me. 

I extended myself earlier the past month to the American Association of Physics Teachers to serve as a coordinator for the eMentoring Program. Last week I was announced as one of the new co-coordinators. It has been program running for about the last four years, and essentially is a free match-making tool for new teachers with more experienced teachers. I am eager to continue the program (which is going strong with over 100 mentees matched with mentors). My new colleague co-coordinator, Danielle Spaete, and I have a variety of ideas to update and add some possible new structures to the program. One thing we've realized is that wee are in need of MORE mentors! If you have at least 5 years of teaching experience in physics, please consider volunteering as mentor! Visit: http://www.aapt.org/ementoring/ementor.cfm?CFID=18363984&CFTOKEN=66816885 

Already, other potential partnerships are also underway... While at NASA-ARMD, I hope to develop and revise the only comprehensive existing high school level physics materials, Flight Testing Newton's Laws, 
http://goo.gl/dGYCUS I'm really in need of more inquiry-based, hands-on activities that model authentic science and engineering practices -- if you have ideas, please let me know! Aviation has received little attention from high school level educators, and has almost no Physics Education Research in the field associated with it, that I am aware of, which is unfortunate, because there are rampant misconceptions and errors in many textbooks and materials that I have seen. 

While the work on Flight Testing Newton's Laws will encompass a study of mechanics, I'd also like to develop curricular resources that really pay homage to the NACA's 100 Year Anniversary. The Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum and NASA-ARMD have collaborated in the past to create the permanent exhibit, America by Airhttp://airandspace.si.edu/exhibitions/america-by-air/  One of the things I noted as an occurring pattern -- that hasn't ever been addressed through educational materials, from what I can tell -- is the advancements in navigation and communications, both of which rely directly on electricity and magnetism. I contacted Mark Davids, fellow physics teacher, Einstein Fellow, and AAPT/PTRA member to see if he would mind me pulling some ideas and resources from his Science of Cell Phones workshop that I took from him back in 2008. He and his colleagues were very cordial, and I'm excited to begin extending my network with such great minds.

I am hoping to take all of the resources I plan to develop and to present them to attendees at the AAPT winter and summer meetings, the NSTA spring meeting, and at the AAPT's PTRA training workshop next summer...more to come on that.

If all of that weren't enough, I was recently invited by my daughter's pre-school teacher to use my duty days to teach science materials. Through this, I hope to develop three to twelve literacy-based science units for preschool teachers. One of the difficulties in early childhood and elementary science education is that teachers often fear science -- and teaching science. As such, I plan to find popular children's books with an aviation theme, and to incorporate concept development and a hands-on activity. This October, immediately after the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, I hope to read to the children Hot Air, and to help them decorate and build a giant hot air balloon in the classroom. Please send me more suggestions!

Even with such a short time at NASA-ARMD, I have been exposed to an absolute wealth of resources. While I'll share these bit by bit, take a look at the promotional videos found to either side of this post. Ever since NACA literally got swallowed in the process of developing NASA in 1958, aeronautics has had to fight for funding as it proves its value to the nation. The reality is, "NASA is with you when you fly." NASA-ARMD pioneered a lot of the aviation research that has made modern day aviation safer, quieter, and more fuel-efficient. We also often forget how much we rely on airplanes... Grocery stores are filled with perishable fruits and flowers that often were on a plane only the night before; hospitals receive shipments of life-saving medicines and organs for transplant by plane; time-sensitive documents and materials are shipped over the world in under a day through the air. Even if you didn't fly today, in all likelihood, something you used did.

Yesterday was also a day for me to get out and about town again. This time I visited the National Science Foundation to meet up with about 10 of my fellow Einstein colleagues to learn about how to contribute to the Directorate for Computer and Information Science's (CISE) bi-weekly e-publication for teachers and students -- Bits and Bytes. It is a free publication, very short (only two pages), appropriate for middle school and high school students, and includes a brief hands-on activity and educational web links. Feel free to subscribe along with me at http://www.nsf.gov/cise/csbytes/ I hope to contribute an article that highlights some of NASA's contributions to aviation through advanced computing. 

While on my outing, I had to make a visit to the Triangle Coalition to fill out some paperwork. The Triangle Coalition for STEM Education is the primary overseer of my fellowship. http://www.trianglecoalition.org/ They offer a wide variety of STEM education events, including an annual conference and web seminars. Their office is actually located within the the National Science Teachers Association building, so it was exciting to be there, although it was awfully quiet. I will be submitting a brief article for this month's newsletter. Feel free to subscribe to the newsletter for free here: http://www.trianglecoalition.org/tceb-info

Over the weekend, I've also been doing some soul-searching regarding pursuing a doctoral degree. I'm hoping for a flexible program that will allow me to maintain a concentration in physics education, with bits of graduate physics content, science education, teacher preparation, and policy in general. I've already been in contact with professors from the University of Maryland and the University of Colorado - Boulder, both of which seem to have very promising programs. 

I've also just started two online courses to help me determine my educational path a bit. EdX from Harvard is offering Saving Schools: History and Politics of US Education, and, starting next week, MOOC-Ed is offering a course in Coaching Digital Learning...which, I will say, is convenient. I've recently applied to my school district to offer an online Google Apps course, and my ideas have been well received. If the proposal from the technology coordinator goes through as planned, I might have up to 250 of my colleagues taking a course that I helped design. I am thankful for the opportunity to provide some leadership, something I don't think I could have done during another year in the classroom.

I made a few more exciting connections today as well. I contacted Dr. Timothy Gay, author of The Physics of Football. I have used his book in my own teaching with high school students, and the football players really got a "kick" out of it. As I am interested in, perhaps after this year, pursuing a similar book, with reference to aviation, I wanted to get some helpful advice from him about the learning, writing, publishing, and marketing process. He gave me some very helpful caveats and suggestions, and feels that there really is a niche for it in the physics education community. Above all, he said, "Whatever you write, make sure it is right!" I couldn't agree with him more. Aerodynamics is often poorly taught and sorely misunderstood. 

I did come across, by way of a colleague, a book of similar nature, called The Simple Science of Flight. It is a beautifully-presented book that emphasizes the similarities between flying animals and human aviation. Dr. Timothy Gay also recommended that I read The Physics of NASCAR, which was written by the wife of the Assistant Executive Officer of the AAPT, with whom I met earlier last month to talk about PTRA and e-Mentoring. And so, I come full circle to the beginning of my post!

AAPT eMentoring logo

NASA Aeronautics - A New Strategic Vision


End of Orientation and First Day in the Office

posted Sep 5, 2014, 6:07 PM by Rebecca Vieyra   [ updated Apr 28, 2015, 2:52 PM ]

My first day in the NASA-ARMD office has been a great finish to a fantastic week. We had a total of three days of orientation, and, as I left off at the end of only the first day or orientation, I'll briefly summarize everything I learned on my last two days of orientation.

On Thursday, we took a look at STEM issues currently facing the nation. A presenter from the National Governor's Association shared what he views as some of the greatest educational challenges facing the US:

1) American students are "underperforming," according to the TIMMS and PISA data. However, this is a bit deceiving. Our top 10% can most certainly keep up with even the best foreign country's 10%...but China's 10% is a lot bigger than ours, in real numbers. We are naturally at a disadvantage with regard to population. In another context, I can't even fathom the percentage of, say, Chinese students who live in rural, poverty-stricken areas and aren't even accounted for in the student population and are never tested.

2) The US workforce is not keeping up with foreign competition. There was a bit of controversy over this one... While we need more STEM-qualified college graduates overall, this is not true for all branches of STEM. Some teachers questioned the need entirely, perhaps with the concern that industries are trying to inflate the number of potential candidates for their benefit. Even so, any look at the number of H-1 visas is evidence that we are importing a lot of our brainpower.

3) Post-secondary education is the new minimum to remain in or enter the working middle class. There are higher economic and academic standards in society, and not everyone is able to reach them.

4) There is a greater need for specialized professional certification. 

On the following day, we visited George Mason University to consider our own professional development plans in the areas of leadership, learning, and addressing the "big issues" in STEM education. I have quite a number of goals, which I will share at some point, but I was particularly inspired by a fellow physics teacher who crossed over from the engineering industry. I feel that the one area I really have a lack in is the industrial and higher academic science experience. I was suggested that this is the year to begin searching out universities in the area, meeting with potential mentor professors, and seeking out funding in the forms of grants and/or fellowships. 

In considering between an education degree and an academic one, I'm starting to feel that maybe I need to go the academic (physics) route, because it isn't one that I have really explored before, and it would give me a new perspective on the reasons why we are educating our students -- to prepare them for research and engineering. I am being asked to teach engineering and scientific research, but I don't feel like I've ever seen it authentically done. I think I've been holding back, just a little bit, and it's time to let go. My credibility might depend, in part, on a doctorate in hard science. No one ends up managing the NSF, NASA, or NOAA with a a business degree.

As I began to explain my concerns about pursuing a Ph.D. in physics to this other teaching fellow, I heard myself say things I for which I would have most certainly chastised my students -- especially the girls. I expressed that, perhaps in the back of my mind, I question not my dedication or interest, but my "ability." I fail to realize that hard work can make up for (and go beyond) what a naturally intuitive mind will do. I also fail to recognize that, despite my level of "discomfort" at being challenged, that I've always done really well. In fact, as I tell my students, "Only an education that makes you feel uncomfortable is actually worth your time." I think another concern of mine is that I might end up pursuing a degree that leads me into a program that is isolating -- especially with regard to research. I want to do something practical, that has direct impact on the work of others. The fact that I question the value of university work makes me think that perhaps I don't even really know what goes on there. 

So, this is the year to investigate. I plan to make some phone calls, meet some advisers, and get my "foot in the door."

After that, we had a presentation from an extremely knowledgeable professor in communication. She relayed to us the care we must take as "visible figures" that represent science education. Using references from Neil deGrasse Tyson to the everyday media, she helped us analyze a variety of documents for their misinterpretation by the media. She encouraged us to make sure we were always understood by the general public. Generally, she says, people do not fully comprehend our meaning when we use a 1) Hard word, a concept that is 2) Hard to picture, or because we are saying things that are 3) Hard to believe (especially in the case of misconceptions about science process and content).

We practiced our "elevator talk" (a bit longer than an "elevator pitch"). Sometimes, something as simple as explaining "what we do" as fellows can be tricky. Some awesome advice when clarifying communications about science include: giving "non-examples," providing multiple examples, discussing false examples, finding a picture, using analogies, explaining applications that are relevant to the listener, using Socratic dialogue to uncover potential misconceptions, and empathizing. Lots of good advice.

Lastly, I will put in a word about my first day. My adviser was out of the office, so I quietly got badged after digitally fingerprinting "my left hand, all fingers together," "left thumb," "each finger on your left hand, individually, rolling from one side to the other," and repeating the step with my right hand. With people out on vacation, it was quiet. It was blessed. I took account of the items at my desk, reviewed strategic plans and literature, filed through the work-in-progress from the previous fellow, and found some "hidden" gems from hard-copy documents that I otherwise wouldn't have found online. One of them is, "F = ma: Flight Testing Newton's Laws" (http://www.nasa.gov/audience/foreducators/topnav/materials/listbytype/Flight_Testing_Newtons_Laws.html). Of course, there are things that need to be changed (starting with the title...), but it's the first item I have found that is really more appropriate to the high school physics classroom than anything else I've seen from NASA. I have plenty of ideas for what I'd like to do, but I'll share that later. Of course, I have other projects, but some of them are sensitive and classified. ;-)

Orientation Day 1

posted Sep 2, 2014, 6:46 PM by Rebecca Vieyra

Albert Einstein Fellowship at NASA-ARMD (2014-2015)

Visited my new office!

My official appointment as an Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator fellow has begun! My placement at NASA-ARMD (National Aeronautics and Space Administration - Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate) will begin on Friday.

Needless to say, I have wanted to hit the ground running, so this hasn't been the first of my exposures to my fellowship or aeronautics. 

For those of you following my Facebook feed, you'll notice that, as a family, we've already done lots of traveling. With regard to aeronautics, we've already made multiple trips to the National Air and Space Museum, the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, and the Goddard Space Flight Center. There is so much yet to see!

On August 11, I made the short trip to the American Association of Physics Teachers at the American Center of Physics (which also houses the American Institute of Physics) to speak with executives about possibly developing a collaboration for aerospace education resources throughout my fellowship, and to see how my fellowship time might allow me to have some impact on the Physics Teaching Resource Agent program as well as the e-Mentoring Program. We've already got some plans in place that will allow me to have a presence at the winter (San Diego, CA) and summer (College Park, MD) national AAPT meetings. 

A day later, on August 12, I visited Tony Springer, my sponsor at NASA-ARMD at the HQ office in DC. Fortunately, the walk takes only about 17 minutes and takes me right alongside the Capitol Building, botanical gardens, and a variety of other large, federal buildings such as HHS. I was delighted to meet most of the office people and even sit in on a telecon to discuss upcoming events. I am learning that I, very quickly, will need to get my hands on a guide manual for the many, many acronyms used here in Washington! I took a short trip to the resource library, and I had a large bundle of technical and historical literature that I've been working my way through. Most NASA literature is free to the public in hard-copy, and also accessible online. I'm currently working on NASA's First A: Aeronautics from 1958-2008. Feel free to read along with me at: http://goo.gl/nK6rW4

We have been exceptionally fortunate to already know a number of our neighbors, and to have found out only recently that a number of them are fellows as well! Last night, Sept. 1, one of our neighbors, a second year fellow, hosted a family get-together for all fellows. We had 14 out of 19 fellows and their families in attendance. Therese, Chrystian, and I all had a fantastic time. Personally -- and I heard the sentiment echoed by a number of other fellows as well -- I had a hard time getting to sleep last night after such intellectual stimulation. 

This fellow/neighbor of ours has already opened up her home to us and shared a dinner with us a few weeks ago, but the evening was an opportunity to re-connect with a number of other fellows I initially met during the interview process. Among these was another second-year fellow, who is also a pilot, hobby gliderer (?), and an invested member of the Civil Air Patrol. In the brief time I spent with her, she provided me with a world of new resources I hope to use as inspiration for my contributions to NASA-ARMD educational resources.

I've also maintained a number of other connections with a variety of aerospace educators, engineers, and pilots at a share-a-thon that I met back at the spring Boston NSTA conference. I met members of NASA's former AESP program http://goo.gl/ta0qdT It is our hope to re-new the image of aerospace education, to address the endemic lack of pilots, and to provide an authentic context for teaching traditional physics concepts. A number of them plan to re-group, and have invited me to represent aerospace education at NSTA's national conference in the spring. Already, I am surrounded by cheer-leaders, resource persons, and inspirational individuals who feel the need to champion the cause for aerospace education.

Today was Day 1 of orientation, and entailed the coverage of a variety of topics, including identifying personal strengths, reviewing program requirements and ethics, and discussing basic civics of the passage of bills, as well as educational policy in the current political climate. This will prove to be an interesting year filled with heightened tensions surrounding the elections. 

While I usually don't give much credit to these personality-type tests, we were all asked to take a GALLUP StrengthsQuest test. I do think that my indicated top descriptors, out of a possible 34 descriptors, are pretty spot on: "Learner," "Achiever," "Futuristic," "Competition," and "Responsibility." While nearly all of us scored high as Learners and Achievers, everything else makes me feel a bit brash in comparison to those who sport "Harmony," "Empathy," and "Woo."

GALLUP's description of "Achiever" pretty much sums up how I perceive my every day,

"Your Achiever theme helps explain your drive. Achiever describes a constant need for achievement. You feel as if every day starts at zero. By the end of the day you must achieve something tangible in order to feel good about yourself. And by “every day” you mean every single day — workdays, weekends, vacations. No matter how much you may feel you deserve a day of rest, if the day passes without some form of achievement, no matter how small, you will feel dissatisfied."

and my life's work:

"You have an internal fire burning inside you. It pushes you to do more, to achieve more. After each accomplishment is reached, the fire dwindles for a moment, but very soon it rekindles itself, forcing you toward the next accomplishment. Your relentless need for achievement might not be logical. It might not even be focused. But it will always be with you."

41-49 of 49