For the last three years, the NASA Girls and Boys has been connecting middle school students with NASA employees for a 5-week online summer program in all things STEM. This summer, they are doing it again and the time to apply is now! This incredible opportunity is open to any students in grades 5 through 8 or home school equivalent; the only caveat is that the child must be a U.S. citizen.
Each week touches on a different subject—I bet you can guess what they are!—science, technology, engineering, math, and STEM in real life. The student will have a choice of different projects to explore each week’s topic.
If you’re interested in signing up your child, the deadline is June 28th. Places are limited and will be filled randomly from the list of applicants. All you need for the application is your name, email address, and state of residency.
I had the chance to chat with a very special family who participated last year. Kim Haverkos, a professor in the Education Department at Thomas More College who specializes in STEM Education, applied both of her kids to the program and both were selected during the lottery. This was the only family to have two kids in the program, so they had twice the stories to share with GeekMom about NASA Girls and Boys! Gabe is now going into 9th grade and Abby into 7th, and as you can read below, they learned a lot from the experience—and had fun too.
GeekMom: What did you do during the program?
Gabe: I learned a lot about the calculations that go into launching a spaceship and we also talked about my mentor’s experiences with NASA.
Abby: I Skyped in with my mentor and we did experiments together. Sometimes the video wouldn’t work, but we always got the experiments to work.
Kim: Both kids enjoyed the experiences that we were able to do with the mentors through Skype. I loved the Skype aspect. We were on vacation for both of their first meetings with their mentors and used Skype to our advantage for those meetings. As an educator, I was excited to see the hands on/creative/engineering aspects built into the program. I know there are limitations on the mentors (we can’t have them all the time!), but would love to see the program expand so that the kids could continue to connect with the mentors as they got older.
GeekMom: Can you tell me about your mentor?
Gabe: He was a NASA engineer that lived in South Carolina. His specialty was the pod that releases off the spacecraft after it enters space.
Abby: She lived in Alabama and was getting married soon. She helped figure out ways to fix things or think about things when they went wrong and they got stuck. She sent me a box of things from NASA after the program—I have a poster of the stars on my wall.
Kim: Both mentors were great. They worked hard to tap into the kids’ interests and tie those interests into what the mentors did at work. I appreciated the mentors giving time in the evenings—their precious time!—to engage the upcoming generation of students in STEM.
GeekMom: How did it feel to talk with someone from NASA?
Abby: I liked it. But I was nervous. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do at first, but it was fun and my mentor knew a lot and had lots of stories to tell.
What was the most memorable thing your mentor told you?
Gabe: The most memorable thing he told me was that if I work hard, I can achieve anything.
Kim: Gabe was so worried that his mentor was going to be someone old and “not cool”—I can’t describe how excited he was to talk to someone young and “cool” who was a part of the NASA team. It relaxed him right away and he looked forward to every connection with him!
GeekMom: Did you like the program? What was your favorite part?
Gabe: I loved the program. It was a lot of fun and I learned so much. My mentor had so much information to share. My favorite part was actually a little after the program was over. My mentor invited me to watch the testing of a rocket ship he helped build. I watched it online and it was very cool.
Abby: I got to see that launch too. It was cool. I liked the program. My favorite part was building the hand from string and straws, but I liked the penny boat thing too.
GeekMom: What do you want to be when you grow up?
Gabe: I want to be a bioengineer or maybe go into the medical field.
Abby: I want to be a brain surgeon.
Thank you to the Haverkos family for taking the time to talk with GeekMom. Good luck to Gabe and Abby with their ambitious career goals! If there are any GeekMom readers who end up applying and getting in, I’d love to hear how your experience went at the end of summer.