Teachers' Microgravity Experiences Have Succeeded in Delivering Renewed Enthusiasm for Math, Science to Thousands of Students
Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) today completed its inaugural Weightless Flights of Discovery program by turning the well-organized, gravity-driven worlds of approximately 40 distinguished teachers from the greater D.C. area upside down - literally.
The teachers, representing 28 schools in Virginia, Maryland, Ohio, Arizona, Louisiana and the District, participated in the final pair of a dozen parabolic (or "zero gravity") flights that Northrop Grumman has sponsored this summer to help teachers inspire students to pursue technical or scientific fields related to space exploration.
The flights followed a hands-on science workshop held on Sept. 23 at a hotel near Dulles International Airport, where teachers learned the principles of microgravity. During the workshops, the teachers also received assistance in developing experiments they conducted during the flights to show how math, science and engineering principles apply to weightless space environments. The weightless flights are similar to training astronauts receive prior to space flight.
"Our goal with the Weightless Flights of Discovery program has been to provide teachers and their students with a renewed enthusiasm for the learning process, and show them that technical subjects are not only entertaining, but downright interesting," said Tom Vice, vice president for business development for Northrop Grumman's Integrated Systems sector. "From the initial feedback we've received, we're confident that we've given the next generation of space explorers a flying head start on learning that math and science are not only fun, but cool. We expect that many of them will go on to make significant technical contributions to the nation's future and its global competitiveness."
Since the program's launch in June, the Northrop Grumman Weightless Flights of Discovery program has helped to inspire an estimated 10,000 students worldwide by giving more than 250 teachers from all 50 states, five U.S. territories and 24 countries the opportunity to experiment with scientific and engineering principles in a truly weightless environment.
Northrop Grumman serves as the major sponsor for the Weightless Flights of Discovery program, which was developed and executed by the Zero Gravity Corporation. The five-city national tour began in late June at Kennedy Space Center, Fla. with subsequent touch downs in Huntsville, Ala., San Diego and Cleveland. Following the flights, teachers received videotape and photography of their flight experience to use as teaching tools in the classroom.
In addition to underwriting the costs of the workshops and weightless flights, Northrop Grumman also provided a $250 grant to each of the U.S. teachers involved in the program. The grants were made by the Northrop Grumman Foundation.
According to Allan Miller, a 6th grade teacher from Sterling, Alaska and an Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow currently working with the National Science Foundation to improve science, technology, engineering and math education programs in K-12 schools around the country, the Weightless Flights of Discovery program has come along at the perfect time.
"By offering teachers an engaging, high quality professional development experience, the Weightless Flights program is doing exactly what the experts are calling for - bringing more exciting, hands-on science into classrooms," said Miller, who participated in the Weightless Flights program in Cleveland earlier this month. "Even though I'm 3,000 miles from my home classroom in Alaska, I've been able to share the energy and absolute exhilaration of my experience with my students through conference calls, pictures and video."
As a result, added Miller, his students have decided to build and conduct their own microgravity experiment on a NASA sounding rocket next spring, thanks in part to the additional grants provided by Northrop Grumman.
Florida Space Research Institute, a research organization for the state of Florida, also provided national funding support for the Northrop Grumman Weightless Flights of Discovery program. AOL, an industry-leading educational resource for teachers and students, served as the program's official online, interactive Web site. Space enthusiasts can visit http://homeworkhelp.aol.com/zero-g to review videos of teachers in zero gravity action, photo galleries and fast facts about zero gravity.
Northrop Grumman Corporation is a global defense company headquartered in Los Angeles, Calif. Northrop Grumman provides technologically advanced, innovative products, services and solutions in systems integration, defense electronics, information technology, advanced aircraft, shipbuilding and space technology. With more than 120,000 employees and operations in all 50 states and 25 countries, Northrop Grumman serves U.S. and international military, government and commercial customers.