40 Dallas ISD students are flying to Florida to learn about math and science at NASA

TNS

Adamson freshman Estrella Herrera and South Oak Cliff sophomore Tatyana Stubblefield will fly in an airplane for the first time on Sunday, but it won’t be a typical flight.

On a private charter, the duo — part of a 40-student, eight-teacher contingent from Dallas ISD — will leave Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and land at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center on the same landing strip used by NASA’s Space Shuttle.

It’s the first stop on a three-day ‘STEM-Liner Experience,’ as DISD is calling it — an educational adventure focusing on science, technology, engineering and math.

The students — selected by principals at four DISD high schools: Adamson, South Oak Cliff, Obama Male Leadership Academy and Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School — will visit the space center and nearby Florida Institute of Technology, sit in flight and space simulators and even dine with an astronaut. The teachers, who will serve as chaperones, will receive professional development in STEM instruction, too.

The hope, said DISD STEM director Oswaldo Alvarenga, is to spark students’ interests in technical fields. Alvarenga stressed that it was important for a wide variety of students be selected for the trip, not just those who had already shown a desire to work in the sciences.

“We didn’t just want early-college or STEM students,” Alvarenga said. “We wanted a different mix of students: some with the best attendance, some with the best GPA, some of the most improved.”

“It’s going to open these students’ eyes to what’s out there.”

Estrella, who lists her interests as art and astronomy, said she is excited about visiting Kennedy’s Astronaut Training Experience Center, which simulates Martian exploration.

“If life was possible out there, maybe there’s other places in the universe that are like here on Earth,” she said.

All of the students selected were required to write an essay answering how they would use STEM “to make an impact in your community.”

The responses, Alvarenga said, ranged from sustainable living to affordable housing to making transportation more available in southern Dallas.

Tatyana, in the collegiate academy at South Oak Cliff, wrote about using recycling efforts to help clean up her community. Sunday’s flight will be the first time Tatyana travels beyond Texas’ borders. She said she was interested in seeing NASA’s facility.

“I’m not scared of getting on my first flight,” she said. “I’m ready to experience it, you know?”

The trip was made possible by donations from several of DISD’s corporate sponsors, including American Airlines and Microsoft (partners at Adamson’s and South Oak Cliff’s collegiate academies, respectfully). The plane, a chartered, 76-seat Embraer E175 jet, was donated by wholly owned American subsidiary Envoy Air.

“For a STEM-focused experience, it’s hard to find a better place to do that than Cape Canaveral, with all of those things in one place,” said John Dixon, Envoy’s vice president for crew planning.

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