By M.J. Callahan
A local middle school science teacher, Jennifer Becerra, hopes to help this college soar as the new academic program coordinator and lead flight director for Scobee Education Center.
Becerra was hired before Thanksgiving but did not begin until Jan. 20 because she wanted to finish the semester as science department coordinator at Earl Rudder Middle school, where she has taught since 2013.
She also taught science at Shepherd, Zachry and Briscoe middle schools and as distance learning teacher at Education Service Center, Region 20.
She worked at NASA as an aerospace education specialist 2004-2008 and in various other capacities 2009-2010.
“My passion to work at the center comes from my passion for space science,” she said in an interview. “I am fascinated with space flight, the work being done in space and the things we can learn from research being done on the international space station.”
Becerra graduated from the University of the Incarnate Word with a with a bachelor of arts in interdisciplinary studies in life and earth science in 1997, and she received a master of arts in curriculum and instruction in science education in 2002 from Our Lady of the Lake University.
Becerra shared some moments from her past working with the NASA educational office in Houston.
She worked with teachers such as Barbra Morgan, who was the alternate for Christa McAuliffe, the teacher who lost her life with the astronauts of the Challenger along with Cmdr. Frances “Dick” Scobee for whom this college’s center is named.
The educator astronauts allowed students to get excited about science, technology, engineering, and math, STEM, fields. Allowing students to communicate with the astronauts in space brings the experience to life, she said.
“I was very proud to work with Barbra Morgan and inspired by the other educator astronauts and others to keep working in the field of education and space science,” she said.
Becerra shared some of the plans for Scobee Education Center. Visitors will get to use some equipment just like in the space station. Students will be in teams at mission control.
The teams will work together to solve different scenarios.
Students might have warnings flashing on the computer screens either in mission control or in the space station section areas.
They will need to figure out how to solve issues in front to get the mission done, she said.
A unique part of the program is the experiment glove boxes. The glove boxes are in the space station area that simulates the kind of experiments conducted in space. The students will take instructions from mission control to conduct the different experiments in these glove boxes.
Becerra said the simulators that are being installed are similar to the ones at Johnson Space
Center that are used to train astronauts before they go into space.
“We will be the first to get all this new technology and layout, but eventually they hope to work it through to the other centers,” Becerra said.
There will be a flight simulator with screens showing them taking off just like one would see out the windows of a transporter, Becerra said.
The center will offer activities for students as young as pre-K with the Micronauts program and as old as adults in corporate retreats and training.