Monthly Archives: February 2012

Help Naming My New “Friend”

Last week I had the pleasure of getting to work with about a dozen teachers from the UK here in Houston. They came to town as part of an ISSET program to learn more about space as well as how US schools operate. The idea is to keep teachers excited about STEM subjects as well as to give them some new ideas for their own classroom. Everyone was very engaged and I think had an educational, inspiring and fun time! 


One of the teachers gave me a “cousin” of their school Mascot Idris (I hope I am spelling it correctly!!) He is a cute little dragon and I will proudly take him on some of my travels. The question is… what shall I name him? Any ideas anyone?



Transit of Venus

Another really cool program type that ISSET offers (and that I am lucky enough to get to work with them on) is their Leadership Experience Program. The basic idea is you go somewhere really cool and adventurous, then each day you learn about various leadership traits and have activities to apply those traits within. Of course you also see some really amazing stuff while you are on this experience.

The next trip we have for this program is the “Transit of Venus” which combines all of the above with the chance to experience something unique that won’t happen again in our lifetime. Venus is going to pass in front of the sun and won’t happen again til 2117. You won’t be able to see it everywhere in the world and obviously weather can be an issue as well. The Gobi desert is an ideal place to see it for a variety of reasons (starting with the fact that it’s in the part of the Earth that even can see it and not just see it but the entire transit) including lack of light pollution and the fact that weather shouldn’t be an issue.

Along with us on the team will be an astronaut and an astronomer. No matter what I think it is going to be an absolutely amazing trip! Getting to see the Gobi Desert and Transit of Venus makes for a once-in-a-lifetime trip!! Perhaps you will consider joining us!!

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Working with some Amazing Folks in Georgia

I am super tired but I just got back from an absolutely fantastic business trip. I met Chris in Atlanta and we went to Columbus, Georgia (where Fort Benning is for those of you who are familiar with that Army Base) to meet with some folks from the Coca Cola Science Center at Columbus State University.

This place is a great learning center -they’ve got a Challenger Center, an observatory and a fantastic domed theater. But what makes this place truly amazing is the people there. When you meet them there is no mistaking their commitment and excitement about getting kids excited about STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). There is an absolute exuberance of ideas and I just know they are going to do so many amazing things with folks!!

There are a variety of programs we are hoping to work with them on including Message to the Moon, Transit of Venus, Mission Discovery and more! I think they will become a leader in STEM education using space studies to excite young kids!

Also stay tuned… I’ve told you more about Mission Discovery – next up I will tell you more about our Leadership Adventure programs!

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How can my area have a Mission Discovery

Some of you have said – Wow Mission Discovery sounds really awesome but there’s not one near me… how do we make one happen closer to where I am? You may be shocked to hear that it is not as hard as it might seem! Honestly, we as the Mission Discovery Team do all the work for the actual camp we just need some help with initial logistics etc.


First and foremost we need a place to host the camp. Ideal places are a university or a museum but other places will work as well. What we need within the place to host are the following things

  • Room that we can do presentations to a large group
    • Needs to have projection availability for PowerPoints and Videos
    • Wi-Fi
    • Seating for all the campers (number will obviously be dependent on interest and availability)
  • Ability to break into smaller groups within the same room as presentations are done (ideal) or adjacent rooms that we can break up groups to work in
  • Wi-Fi throughout any area we will be working in
  • Some computers available for student use
  • A place for the students to have lunch each day (does not necessarily require a cafeteria but at least a place to have food catered into
  • We are trying to minimize costs because we want to make this camp as affordable as possible so ideally we would like to have the space “donated” to us but we can work on financial details if necessary

We need help with local contacts and media to promote the event. Obviously the number of students needed to make this camp feasible is dependent upon the expenses associated with the camp (and every camp’s expenses are different) but I think in general it is fair to say that a minimum of 50 students will be needed to make a camp possible. However the more students we have the more that we can offer as part of the camp. Ideally it would be great to have local businesses sponsor portions of the camp and/or students to attend the camp. (If you are seriously interested in the sponsorship information please let me know and I can email you some sponsorship stuff we have outlined.) Honestly for these companies the publicity they could get out of it would be very valuable.


We like to have student mentors to the campers. Generally these are college/university aged students who are studying a STEM subject. We found that what the University of Adelaide did was ideal. They had the student group AIAA run point on setting up the logistics that we needed taken care of (such as reserving the rooms, setting up food – since we had no idea where was best since we’d never been to Australia), helping reach out to the community, getting mentors for us etc. I think John who was in charge of this would agree that it was a great learning experience for them and it helped us tremendously!!


Obviously the best times to schedule a Mission Discovery is when there is a school break – think Spring Break, Fall Break, Winter Break or summer. It would be possible to do a 3 day camp instead of 5 if that would work better for your area than a 5 day.


Other than that we show up and make Mission Discovery happen! I hope if you have any interest for your area you’ll let me know or if you know anyone else who may be interested in having a Mission Discovery at their University etc. that you will pass along this information to them! Drop me a note if you want to talk in more depth!!


What is Mission Discovery?

I know many of you have asked about Mission Discovery and I am sorry I haven’t had a chance to give you a full write-up about it til now…. Hopefully I’ll answer everything you are wondering but if I don’t please let me know!


Mission Discovery is an idea conceived by Chris from the International Space School Education Trust (ISSET). ISSET is the group that many NASA space shuttle and space station crews have gone over to the UK with to speak to students about space to try and get them excited about the STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). It’s the same group that I have gone to the UK and India with for the same purpose. Chris asked me to help him develop and evolve Mission Discovery and of course I was excited to do this!

Patch from Imperial College Mission Discovery



Mission Discovery is a 5 day camp which basically runs from 9:30am-4:30pm each day. We use space as a conduit for getting kids excited about STEM subjects but it runs much deeper than just space info that we give them. We delve into lots of teamwork topics, leadership topics (including Covey’s 7 habits of highly effective people), speaking and presentation skills and other subjects that are so vitally essential for doing well in school (and work and life!) but aren’t generally covered in schools.


Targeted student ages are upper level middle school (junior high),  high school and university age but we have had students as young as 9 come to Mission Discovery and excel and we have had adults in their 40s choose to participate and love it!


We divide the students up into teams and through the week there are team tasks that are designed to be fun but also to drive home a point that we’ve made during the day’s “learning” sessions. We always have at least 1 astronaut at the camp for the week and generally we try and have at least 1 astronaut presentation (of some sort) each day except for the last day. The ultimate project of the week is each team must work to come up with an idea for an experiment that could fly to space within very specific parameters. (Ideally if we have the proper funding this experiment would actually fly to the International Space Station.) You would be amazed at the ideas that these students have! We have university students who are studying STEM subjects as mentors for each team but they can also use those of us on the Mission Discovery team as mentors for their ideas too.

With John – one of the Mentors (and one of the key people in making Mission Discovery Adelaide happen!) 

With Sam another mentor (and make it happen guy!)


With Angus – another mentor and make it happen guy!

When we can we bring in local professors and such as well – bottom line we want to give these students as many opportunities as we can to talk to a variety of people who can give them guidance and support for their ideas. At the end of the week the groups compete to see who will win the best experiment. Unfortunately we have not yet had enough funding to fly an experiment in space but we are working on that! In lieu of that prize the students have received iPads for winning and they have been more than happy about that!


So far we have run 2 camps

  • Summer of 2011 at Imperial College in London (England)
  • January 2012 at University of Adelaide (Australia)

Both have been wildly successful and we have gotten such fantastic feedback from each.


I feel so very fortunate to get to be part of what I consider to be an amazing experience for students. I get to watch them grow in just a week’s time. No kidding – the difference in them the day the show up and get started on Day 1 to the end of Day 5 is incredible. It is so neat to watch. 

Me with one of the great students from our Adelaide Mission Discovery



We have a few more camps in work that we are looking forward to

  • Mission Discovery with a Biomedical theme at Kings College (London, UK) July 9-13th, 2012
  • Girls Mission Discovery in conjunction with the Women’s Engineering Society at Salford College (Manchester, UK) for the first week of July (Details still working to be confirmed)
  • Other possibilities we are exploring are camps in the US (speaking to someone in Georgia this week!), another camp in Australia, Brazil, New Zealand

Interested in joining us for a camp that’s already scheduled? Check out the ISSET page to get signed up! We also offer a residential option for the week.


Having both attended and been a counselor at various camps I can tell you that the price of Mission Discovery is always very reasonable. (Prices may vary slightly from camp to camp because of location and expenses.)


Are you interested in having a Mission Discovery come to your area? Hold tight and my next blog will be about how to make that happen! (It’s easier than you think! So all you educators out there I hope you’ll consider it!) 


Here’s a general link to the ISSET Mission Discovery Page


Hello Everyone!

Well I’ve decided that it’s time for me to blog about all the fabulous events that I am fortunate enough to get to work on with ISSET. I hope that this will serve as a way for the many amazing people I have met through school visits, Mission Discovery and Message to the Moon to keep in touch with me and as an avenue to meet lots of new amazing people through these programs in the future. Also – I hope this will serve as a source of information for information about upcoming new and exciting events as well. I look forward to hearing from many of you! And if ever you have some questions for me – Ask Away!!!

Stay tuned – there’s so much exciting stuff in the works!!!