Program that took Spring Grove students to NASA has been cut

Kyle Abrahims, left, and Mike Abata with the rocket they prepared last year for the NASA Student Launch Initiative. NASA has eliminated the program for high school and middle school students, according to a Spring Grove teacher.

Kyle Abrahims, left, and Mike Abata with the rocket they prepared last year for the NASA Student Launch Initiative. NASA has eliminated the program for high school and middle school students, according to a Spring Grove teacher.  (File photo)

A program that allowed some Spring Grove Area High School students to design a rocket and launch it at NASA facilities last year has been ended, according to the Spring Grove teacher who worked with the students.

That means students won’t have the same opportunity this year.

Brian Hastings, a physics teacher at Spring Grove, shared an email from NASA that said the NASA Student Launch Projects: Student Launch Initiative activity for high schools and middle schools was eliminated.

Ann Marie Trotta, a NASA education spokeswoman, said that the program ended because of travel restrictions, budget constraints and a new approach to education offerings. She said it’s been replaced by a program open to university students, but there are still plenty of ways for students of any age to engage with NASA.

Through the program, a team of Spring Grove students last year designed and built a rocket aimed at soaring a mile in the air carrying a scientific payload. They traveled to Huntsville, Ala., and launched it at NASA facilities. They also attended a rocket fair to view others’ work and heard from speakers.

This would have been the second year for the Spring Grove students to participate, and Hastings said their placement at the national event last year had earned them a third year. Students worked over the summer to submit their preliminary proposal for this year’s rocket, he said.

“Students are obviously very disappointed,” he said. Several are interested in engineering or aerospace engineering, and “this is just one of those experiences that would have been ideal,” he said.

He noted that a member of last year’s team is now attending Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and a senior was just admitted there.

Spring Grove’s students will continue to participate in Science Olympiad, the Team America Rocketry Challenge. The team plans to build the rocket they designed for SLI 2014 and launch it at a Maryland Delaware Rocketry Association event in the spring. Hastings said they learned about a rocket competition in Virginia they might look into.

But the NASA program put Spring Grove students in a very select group – it was the only high school in Pennsylvania to participate – and was a good addition to students’ credentials, he said.

Hastings said it just seems “extremely nearsighted” to him.

“These are your future engineers and machinists and astronauts and everything else,” he said. “We’re providing less experience for them.”

Related: Spring Grove students’ rocket soars 3,900 feet

Hanging out with Spring Grove’s rocket scientists

The Rocket Scientists are selling Bonus Books to support their activities

About Angie Mason

I'm the education reporter at the York Daily Record. Follow me on Twitter: @angiemason1
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