City teacher recalls her NASA experience
JYOTI VENKATESH, a teacher of Physics and Environmental Education at Innisfree
House School, has an exceptional credit to her name. She was one among the
teachers selected to be a part of the Honeywell Educators Space Programme
held at NASA.
It all began in January, she recalls, when she first heard about the programme
to be held at NASA in Huntsville, Alabama. "I was a little apprehensive but
decided to take the selection test. It was .an online essay writing competition.
We had to write three essays on global employment, technology in teaching
and classroom experiences and problems faced as a teacher."
"The task was daunting, as the competition was worldwide and all the thoughts
had to be written in 600 odd words," she says.
Three months later, she heard from Honeywell informing her that she had been
selected after a rigorous scrutiny of more than 100 essays. "It was a joyful
moment but I was worried, since the camp was in June when the school would
be working. But my Principal, Vice Principal, HOD and my colleagues were
very cooperative and helped me at every step in preparing for the camp,"
she recalls gratefully.
The ten-day camp began on June 16, and 95 Maths and Science teachers from
20 countries attended the camp.
"At the space camp, we were put up at the University of Huntsville and the
training activities were held at the Space Center. We were divided into teams
of 16 tit„ 17 teachers and our group was called 'Integrity', which had teachers
from Romania, Czech Republic, Canada, Ireland and India.
"We were taught new and innovative ways of teaching Maths and Science, performed
experiments relating to space, did simulations of 1/6th g force, space tumble,
"We even simulated flights into space on the space shuttles, 'Atlantis' and
'Discovery'. The icing on the cake was that I played the role of the pilot
during the mission. Learning to operate those hundreds of buttons was quite
a task," she recollects.
The flight suits that were given to them, similar to those worn by the astronauts,
will be a cherished possession, she says.
Apart from the various other activities they underwent, she says 'Toys in
Space was the most exhilarating and mentally invig orating activity:. They
were asked to design toys that could be used by astronauts in space. They
also had the opportunity of meeting Story Musgrave, an astronaut who had
been to the space nine times, Conrad Dannenburg, a 92-year-old rocket scientist,
who had built his first rocket at the age of 16, and Ed Buckbee from NASA.
They also did video conferencing with NASA and discussed the launch of Discovery.
"Apart from the graduation day, sight seeing and shopping, it was wonderful
to know and make friends with people from varied backgrounds but belonged
to the same teaching fraternity," she says.
Once back in school, her first step was to discuss the implementation of
the innovative teaching methods for the benefit of the students.