NASA grant takes science and technology education to new heights

AMES, Iowa -- NASA has awarded $1.2 million to an Iowa State University program with a record of increasing the number of minority and disadvantaged students studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Iowa State and Southern University and A&M College of Baton Rouge, La., are collaborating on a Program to Increase the Pursuit of Education and Learning In Engineering, or PIPELINES.

"This latest funding will allow us to add new dimensions to our efforts and make a lasting impact," said Anita Rollins, the Science Bound coordinator at Iowa State. Science Bound is an Iowa State program aimed at increasing the number of ethnic minorities studying science and technology in college. Science Bound will administer the National Aeronautics and Space Administration grant.

The funding will sustain numerous education efforts, covering students from seventh grade through college. Programs for teachers, faculty, counselors and parents are also in the works.

"We're aiming to remove any and all roadblocks that may prevent underrepresented students from studying science and technology and ultimately achieving a career in these fields," Rollins said.

NASA has funded PIPELINES for three years. It has introduced more than 3,000 students to NASA initiatives and more than 600 teachers and 200 faculty members to NASA materials. More than half the students have been African-American or Latino.

One of the new efforts supported by the funding is a pilot program to extend the Science Bound program to the Marshalltown Community School District.

"In May 2005, a record 33 underrepresented seniors from the Des Moines Public Schools completed the Science Bound program and became eligible for scholarships to Iowa State to major in a technical field," Rollins said. "We'd like to spread that success to other cities in Iowa."

Another new component is called "NASA at ISU." Iowa State researchers working on NASA projects will develop hands-on programs that allow middle school and high school students to participate in the research. The goal is to make the programs available over the Internet and serve as a model to help NASA educate the public about its research efforts.

The leaders of PIPELINES will also explore expanding the project to include a predominately Latino institution, Estrella Mountain Community College of Avondale, Ariz.

"Our collaboration with Southern University, a historically black university, has been highly effective in widening opportunities for students in both Iowa and Louisiana," Rollins said. "We believe a partnership with Estrella Mountain will reap similar benefits."

The new funding will also support existing PIPELINES projects. In Iowa, they include algebra enrichment classes, educational visits to Iowa State, summer internships at technical-related businesses, summer research opportunities and other programs for students. Projects also include programs and workshops for science and math teachers and school counselors.

In Louisiana, the program includes workshops for teachers and faculty, support of a curriculum center for earth-science resources, student research opportunities and academic enrichment in the earth sciences.

Science Bound at Iowa State is administered by the Institute for Physical Research and Technology, a network of scientific research centers at ISU. For more information, see