BROWNSVILLE, RGV – A teacher from an early college high school in Brownsville has been selected for the inaugural LiftOff Alumni Summer Institute to be held at The Greene School in West Palm Beach and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida this summer.  

Roxana Jimenez, who teaches at James Pace ECH School, will be leaving for Florida on July 27 and returning July 31.

LiftOff is a collaborative effort of Texas Space Grant Consortium members and affiliates, NASA, and industry.

Roxana Jimenez

In an exclusive interview with the Rio Grande Guardian, Jimenz said she hopes to conduct experiments, tour facilities, and network with other educators while sharing innovative lesson plans and ideas.  

She pointed out that nationally competitive program is sponsored by NASA’s Texas Space Grant Consortium and that it aims to increase a teacher’s knowledge of science, technology, engineering, and math through space education.  

“My interest in Space Exploration began when I was about three years old when my neighbor spoke to me about the planetary alignment of Jupiter, Saturn and Neptune and referred to it at “The Three Wise Men,” Jimenez explained. “Looking at those planets at such a young age piqued my interest in the cosmos.”

Jimenez has been involved with NASA programs since her college days. She said she is thrilled to have been given the opportunity to attend the LiftOff Alumi 50th Anniversary Celebration of the Apollo Mission.  

“I have been searching for ways to involve my students in Space Exploration and programs such as this provide me with many resources,” Jimenez said.

“Most recently I teamed up with Texas Southmost College to do an Engineering Camp the first week of July. I shared stories with the students, showed them many NASA pictures, and encouraged them to take pride in our city’s Expanding Frontiers initiative.”

Expanding Frontiers is a new nonprofit launched by the City of Brownsville and UT-Rio Grande Valley professor Rick Jenet. It aims to build a cluster of Space industry companies in the Rio Grande Valley.

“Students said to me they really enjoyed the Engineering Camp week with me and many of them said they wanted to go to the moon and Mars. I wish to continue to spark interest as well as keep participating in programs such as LiftOff and perhaps even start programs like this here in Brownsville,” Jimenez said.

The Liftoff Alumni theme is The Next Giant Leap! It will highlight the 50th anniversary of the Apollo missions, allowing teachers to explore the legacy of Apollo while exploring the future of space exploration.  

According to organizers, the workshops will provide teachers a rare – and for most, unique – opportunity to spend a week working with professionals at the cutting edge of space exploration while having an opportunity to experience hands-on technology of the future. 

A news release from NASA states that since its founding in 1958, NASA has reached that goal numerous times over. 

“From walking on the moon to landing on Mars, NASA has brought the wonders of space to people on Earth for decades. Thousands of people have been working around the world – and off it – for decades, trying to answer some basic questions. What’s out there? How do we get there? What will we find? What can we learn there, or learn just by trying to get there, that will make life better here on Earth?”

The news release stated:

Almost 50 years ago, men from Earth left our home planet and journeyed to the moon. It all started in 1961 when President John F. Kennedy announced the goal of sending astronauts to the moon before the end of the decade. 

Coming just three weeks after Mercury astronaut Alan Shepard became the first American in Space, Kennedy’s bold challenge set the nation on a journey unlike any before in human history.

On July 20, 1969, culminating eight years of work by thousands of Americans, Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong stepped out of the lunar module and took “one small step” in the Sea of Tranquility, calling it “a giant leap for mankind.” 

The moon has been the destination of some of humanity’s most monumental and challenging expeditions. As the moon becomes more accessible to both national space programs and private enterprise, what did we learn and where will this knowledge take us.”

Jimenez pointed out that teachers apply for LiftOff and are selected competitively. She said the workshops are organized around an aerospace or space science theme drawn from NASA’s diverse engineering and scientific research programs. The weeklong institute features a series of workshops, hands-on activities, field investigations, and presentations by NASA scientists and engineers working on various missions. 

“We celebrate all that NASA has contributed in the past and will contribute in the future and the engineering behind its accomplishments at LiftOff Alumni 2019! 

The aim of Liftoff is for teachers to return to their school districts to not only use materials received in their own classroom, but to train other educators.

“The LiftOff workshops prove that the excitement teachers, and more importantly, their students, feel about earth and space science can be used to enrich STEM education and inspire the next generation of explorers.”

Editor’s Note: Teachers interested in learning more about LiftOff 2020 may visit the following URL: http://www.tsgc.utexas.edu/liftoff/ For more information, contact Margaret Baguio, Texas Space Grant Consortium at 512-471-6922 or [email protected]