Kevin Smolek measuring out 50ml NAOH
Kevin Smolek measuring out 50ml NAOH for a temperature experiment. Photo by Kira Jones / theTorch

NASA awards $90,000 grant

This summer, three Oregon community colleges received grants from  Space Administration Space Grant Consortium totaling $500,000. The community colleges included in the grant were Lane, Linn-Benton and Portland. Lane was awarded $90,000 of the grant.

“We were in real danger of administrative decisions that may actually have cut astronomy courses here at Lane,” said Dr. Dennis Gilbert, instructor of physics and astronomy at Lane. “This grant brought it back solidly.”

Lane  joined the consortium in 1997, but its membership was recently revoked.

“There was a little bit of a glitch at one point,” Gilbert said. “One of my colleagues came back and said we are not a part of the consortium anymore.”

When Lane was not listed as a member of the consortium, students were unable to apply for scholarships through it. After Gilbert received this information, he contacted the director of the consortium at Oregon State University, Jack F. Higginbotham, to identify the problem.

To retain membership, consortium representatives from Lane must attend meetings and participate in decision-making activities in the consortium. When contacted, Higginbotham  allowed students to apply for this year’s round of scholarships.

Half of Lane’s $90,000 portion was used to promote and restructure the astronomy and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics education, STEM, provided at Lane. The improvements include added lab curricula to meet the AAOT [Associate of Arts Oregon Transfer Degree] science lab requirements, curriculums involving the use of NASA and other international mission resources and to create hybrid and fully online classes.

The grant has also reestablished relationships with the Science Factory, a children’s museum in Eugene, and with the University of Oregon. The Science Factory has a new planetarium director that is adding programs to include college-level exhibits. Connections with the UO will be developed to allow students to use the robotic telescope at Pine Mountain Observatory in Bend, Ore.

“The scholarship was a good opportunity to bridge a lot of different things including networking in the future,” said Jack Carroll, a mechanical engineering major and scholarship recipient.

The other half was given to nine students in the form of $5,000 scholarships. The students were Paula Berry, Sarah Diaz, John Paul Morton, Jack Carroll, Madison Hood, Benjamin Porter, Gino Carrillo, Adam Kincaid and Nathan Woodward. Each student has received the first $3,000 of the scholarship and will be awarded the additional $2,000 in March of 2016.

On Nov. 14, the scholarship recipients will partake in an event held at the Portland State University campus. The event includes a drop tower that will create a microgravity experimental environment for a little over two seconds. The event will also showcase small group visits to a NASA control room directly connected 24/7 to the International Space Station.

“I watched a couple videos that the head person at Oregon State was showing,” recipient Jack Carroll said. “It seems like a really cool opportunity, … a once in a lifetime opportunity.”