ONEONTA, N.Y. -- Fifth- through eighth-graders from Otsego County will have the chance to interact with a crew member on board the International Space Station (ISS) next week, thanks to a collaborative effort between NASA and SUNY Oneonta. Air Force Colonel and NASA Flight Engineer Ron Garan will communicate directly with the students during a downlink between the ISS and the college’s campus at 11 a.m. on Friday, June 17.
SUNY Oneonta Senior Assistant to the President Colleen Brannan, who has spearheaded planning for the event on campus, said the college expects to host 1,000 participants from the Oneonta City School District, several surrounding districts and the Oneonta Job Corps Academy.
“We’re excited to bring so many students here for what’s shaping up to be a fantastic experience,” said Brannan. “The college is thrilled to give these young people the opportunity to talk with an astronaut in orbit. We’re also grateful to our alumnus, Colonel Garan, for his enthusiasm and generosity in sharing his knowledge with kids from local schools.”
Garan, a 1982 SUNY Oneonta graduate, has downlinked to his alma mater previously, most recently this past February in the days preceding his trip to the ISS aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket. During that event, a pre-flight conference from Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, he recounted his first space flight and spoke about the challenges of living in a weightless environment before an audience of over 900 middle school students.
According to Dr. Paul Bischoff of the SUNY Oneonta Secondary Education Department, the upcoming ISS downlink is part of an ongoing project to increase interest in science among pre- and early teens. He said that partnering with NASA has been a catalyst for stronger relationships among science educators at the secondary and collegiate levels, and the regional STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Council.
“Many of the students who visited campus for the February downlink are returning to hear from Colonel Garan how his launch from Kazakhstan went and how his stay on the ISS is going,” Bischoff said. “Programming like this adds a richness to what students are learning in their classrooms and keeps them interested in science. It also helps NASA, SUNY Oneonta, our local school districts, and the STEM Council work together toward our common goal of engaging the next generation of American science innovators and educators.”
SUNY Oneonta President Nancy Kleniewski will make opening remarks at the downlink. She said the event demonstrates one way that her campus is aligned with SUNY’s strategic plan.
“The ‘seamless education pipeline’ is one of SUNY’s ‘Six Big Ideas’ and collaboration is one of its core values. Our partnership with NASA embraces those concepts and is an excellent example of how we are delivering on SUNY’s promise,” she said. “Because Colonel Garan is a graduate and also because we have such close ties to the STEM Council and schools across our region, SUNY Oneonta is uniquely positioned to host this event. I’m looking forward to it.”
Colonel Garan has been documenting his work aboard the ISS in a blog at www.fragileoasis.org. For additional information regarding the June 17 NASA downlink, contact Hal S. Legg, director of communication at SUNY Oneonta at firstname.lastname@example.org.