While demand for engineers in the workplace is growing, student interest in the STEM field is declining. In particular, students who enter high school interested in engineering, tend to become disengaged in the field as they approach graduation. An educational program located in Washington State hopes to stop that trend by engaging students in the STEM field in new and interesting ways. The Washington Aerospace Scholars (WAS) Program offers an innovative approach to STEM education by combining online and applied hands on learning. The program is offered to high school juniors in Washington State and according to former Governor Christine O. Gregoire, “it is one of the most exciting educational opportunities for students in the State of Washington.”
The WAS program is divided into two distinct school credit approved phases, the online curriculum and the summer residency. Phase One of the blended experience, incorporates a NASA-designed online based curriculum, with bi-weekly lessons and a final project. During Phase One students study a variety of interesting topics including, the history of space exploration, the Space Shuttle, International Space Station, and Lunar/Martian explorations. Throughout the online learning phase, students have access to experts and professionals from the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.
Phase Two of the blended learning experience focuses on applied, hands on learning. The top 160 achieving students from Phase One travel to the Museum of Flight for a six-day residential summer experience. During this phase students continue learning from mentors and classroom teachers and start working collaboratively with other students on various projects and activities. The activities and projects range from building model rockets and robotic rovers to engaging in a Mission to Mars team project. Throughout the residency experience, students will be briefed by astronauts, engineers, scientists, and aerospace experts. Students also have the opportunity to take tours of various engineering facilities and become involved in enrichment activities.
Students throughout Washington State should all have the experience of visiting the Museum of Flight. The Washington Aerospace Scholars is a great opportunity for interested students to take guided trips into a family of STEM careers they may not otherwise get to learn about. Aerospace Scholars offers a useful instructional design model for blended units of study that includes online learning, projects, and hands-on community connected experiences. If you would like to receive an email when applications are available or be added to the Washington Aerospace Scholars mailing list, please send your contact information to Washington Aerospace Scholars.