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NASA grant will open new worlds for students at FDLTCC

A grant from the National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) could put students at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College (FDLTCC) in the company of international scientists.

A grant from the National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) could put students at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College (FDLTCC) in the company of international scientists.

FDLTCC was one of only four colleges in the United States to be awarded the grant, which amounts to some $150,000 a year for up to three years to enhance studies in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

"This is really exciting for the college in terms of curriculum improvement and collaborative research," said Elizabeth Sedgwick, primary grant writer and head of FDLTCC's geography/geospatial technologies

program.

Sedgwick explained that under the grant funding, students and a panel of faculty members from the college will be able to work in tandem with two NASA researchers from the National Space, Science and Technology Center in Huntsville, Ala. A student/faculty team will also have the opportunity to travel to Huntsville in the summer to further enhance their knowledge and studies. In addition, FDLTCC will incorporate various curricular developments to enhance selected STEM courses, along with the addition of two new courses, one in computer science and the other in geospatial technologies and environmental science.

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The program is part of NASA's Curriculum Improvement Partnership Award for the Integration of Research project, emphasizing environmental modeling and research

experience.

As an example of the types of subject matter that could be studied under the new initiative, Sedgwick said, students might research various watershed applications based on the school's database collected as part of the St. Louis River Watch project in order to translate it into a "real world" modeling experience. She suggested students might also take a look at the toxic plume released into the air following the benzene spill of1992 in Superior and utilize specific modeling applications to explore what happened and why.

Sedgwick said the first year of the grant will essentially be spent planning.

"The hope is that much of this will be student-driven," said Sedgwick. "Garnering student interest will be a big part of making it successful."

The overall program will be monitored by an outside evaluator, Dr. Annette Lee, a professor of astronomy and physics at St. Cloud State University. FDLTCC faculty involved in the project, in addition to Sedgwick, include Ted Wetherbee, mathematics/computer science;

Connie Wappes, mathematics/ robotics; Jay Sandal, environmental science/biology; Mick Gillespie, biology; and Andy Wold, biology.

Other colleges receiving the grant award included California State University in San Bernardino (partnering with the College of the Desert in Palm Desert, Calif.), Rust College in Holly Springs, Miss. (partnering with Mid-South Community College in West Memphis, Ark.), and the Navajo Technical College in Crownpoint, N.M.

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The approximately $600,000 in grant money awarded by NASA is targeted at schools that serve large numbers of minority or under-represented students to strengthen programs. In return, NASA hopes to help build the type of knowledgeable and diverse work force needed to meet both the agency's own emerging needs as well as those of the country.

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