A Central Elementary School teacher has won a $30,000 Christa McAuliffe fellowship and will use the award to construct a simulated space lab at the school.
The fellowship, which is awarded by the Federal Department of Education to one teacher in each state, honors America's first teacher in space. McAuliffe died aboard the space shuttle Challenger.Central Elementary's Victor Williamson said the money he will be awarded is about half the amount needed to build and manage the planned space lab. He will seek the remaining $30,000 through state grants and other contributions.
"The fellowship will benefit students here at Central Elementary as well as other students in the Alpine School District and state of Utah," Williamson said. "When the space center is completed, we plan on scheduling its use throughout the year. Literally thousands of students will be able to participate in simulated space flight and mission control."
The first phase of the project calls for a portable unit to be purchased to house the lab at the school. The completed facility will include a state-of-the-art space shuttle simulator that will allow 10 students at a time to conduct space voyages ranging from a few hours for young students to three- to five-day simulated missions for high school students.
The simulator will be equipped with six computers that will direct the space flight simulation and will be used to complete mission tasks that will be carried out by students. The facility will be self-contained and will create the illusion of actually being in space as students eat, sleep and work in the shuttle.
Outside the simulator will be mission control where students will manage the flight. Sounds and video will create an actual mission control atmosphere as students manage the activities of the shuttle astronauts.
The curriculum for the space lab is being designed to enhance students' studies in the classroom. The project will allow students and their teachers to become acquainted with the activities available through the lab.
Alpine Superintendent Steven Baugh, said the project could be significant.
"I doubt that many people understand the importance of this project. This proposed lab is similar to the student space center that has been constructed in Alabama," he said. "If total funding can be found, this program will become one of the most popular and prestigious learning activities in the state of Utah."
Williamson was also recently named one of four finalists in the US WEST Outstanding Teacher Program. This program honors a winner and four finalists from Utah every year. Williamson received the $1,000 award from Gov. Norm Bangerter at a banquet recently in Salt Lake City.