Horizons Broaden for Summer Interns at SSDOO

Volume 11, Number 3, September 1995
By Valerie L. Thomas
This summer, the Space Science Data Operations Office (SSDOO) again hosted summer students and staff from nearly all of the programs at Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC). There was a total of 14 students and three staff (two computer science professors and one high school teacher) representing the following programs: the Summer Institute for Engineering and Computer Applications (SIECA), Visiting Summer Enrichment Program (VSEP), NASA Technical Experiences for Select Students (NTESS), Prince George's Community College/NASA Collegians Program (PGCC/NCP), LASER Program, Summer Faculty Fellow, Prince George's Teacher Intern, Joint Venture (JOVE), Summer High School Apprenticeship Research Program (SHARP), Space Club, and the Hughes STX/DuVal High School Intern Program. A former VSEP student returned for a second year as a Hughes STX summer employee.


SSDOO mentors and their summer interns gather on the front steps of NSSDC. Mentors standing in the top row, from left to right, are Shing Fung, Nathan James, Valerie Thomas, Nancy Roman, Gail Schneider, Robert Candey, Mona Kessel, Dieter Bilitza, and David Batchelor. Mentor Carolyn Ng stands in the middle of the front row surrounded by summer interns, left to right, Jimmie Dixon, Melissa Mobley, Lanniece Freeman, Andrea Frazier, Teheran Simmons, (Carolyn Ng), Danielle Whipp, Trena Covington, Mike Gartrell, and Edwin Beckford. Mentors not shown are Frank Husson, Barry Jacobs, Karinn Hassan, and Jeanne Behnke. Summer interns not shown are Allen Chen, Kweli Adams, Richard Bourgin,Timothy Folta, Steve Geller, Ed Hogan, Elva Jones, Cathy Liu, Arletta Saafir, Alma Smith, and Thomas Smith.

The arrival of the first group of students coincided with the spring American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting in Baltimore, Maryland. Since many of the mentors were at the AGU meeting, the SSDOO sponsored for the summer interns on the first day and a half a Hyper Text Modeling Language (HTML) class taught by James Gass and Nathan James. The participants were taught how to develop home pages for the World Wide Web. Alma Smith, the teacher intern from Oxon Hill High School, arrived before her program started to attend the class also. All of the summer students and staff were encouraged to develop their own home pages by the end of the summer. The URL for the summer student and staff home pages is http://bolero.gsfc.nasa.gov/students/summerstaff95.html.

A second HTML class was held for the students who arrived later. They were also joined by some SSDOO permanent staff, other Space Sciences Directorate staff, and employees from other areas at GSFC. The benefits of the class to the summer students and staff were numerous. The class fostered team work among individuals who were not working on joint projects and who were at different age levels (high school and college students and a teacher), challenged some of them to stretch and master advanced techniques for representing information on the Web, provided a multimedia representation of their experience at GSFC to share with others at their schools or universities, and stimulated some of them to continue working for the SSDOO on a volunteer basis after their program had ended.

The projects on which the summer students and staff worked represented a wide range of activities, including the use of sound to represent space science data; the development of a story board for a possible video focusing on space science concepts understandable to K-12 students and the general public, computer networking security tools, home pages for the Howard B. Owens Science Center, and education outreach home pages on space scientists; and work on space models. For more information on these and the other projects, see the Web pages at the URL given above. The mentors were very pleased with the results of their student's or staff's work.

In addition to their individual projects, students and staff attended a "brown bag lunch" presentation series coordinated by Carolyn Ng, Lou Mayo, and James Gass; and a computer facility tour coordinated by Jeanne Behnke and facilitated by Daniel Clark. The brown bag lunch presentations included the following:

The teacher intern and some of the students (Tommy Smith, Eleanor Roosevelt High School; and Jimmy Beckford, Norfolk State University) also joined Bill Taylor, project president of Interactive NASA Space Physics Ionospheric Research Experiment (INSPIRE), and some of his colleagues at Hains Point to observe radio signals from the Russian space station MIR. This was part of the Russian space agency (IKI) and INSPIRE agreement for MIR to fire the electron accelerator and plasma generator over the U.S. during predetermined times while the INSPIRE sites make observations to see if the waves propagate to the surface of the Earth. As a result of this experience, Oxon Hill High School plans to start an INSPIRE program at the school. A group of the students and members of the SSDOO Education Committee was invited to the Howard B. Owens Science Center to participate in the Challenger Center VIP flight simulation. Everyone enjoyed the experience, and some of the students want to return to the Challenger Center to try different roles. An activity carried over from the previous summer was the Role Playing Game with a space science theme. This project, too large to complete in one summer, was continued by a group of the students and the teacher intern. Teheran Simmons prepared a flow diagram for the game scenario, and Alma Smith is working on some of the other components.

Overall, this summer's experience was enriching both for the summer students and staff and for the SSDOO. The students and staff were introduced to new concepts and developed new expertise, and SSDOO was able to complete some tasks permanent staff were too busy to do. In addition, the influx of the new staff with its energy, creativity, and willingness to learn and try new things helped to produce for SSDOO a vibrant and productive experience for all who were involved.

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