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Virginia Students Spend Summer at NASA Wallops Developing Science Missions

For the past seven years, hundreds of Virginia high school sophomores have spent a week of their summer at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility at Wallops Island, Virginia, learning about the research conducted at the facility and developing their own science missions.

While students are not able to visit Wallops this summer in person, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, 124 students were still able to participate virtually in the Virginia Space Coast Scholars Summer Academy, a joint program between Wallops and the Virginia Space Grant Consortium.

During three one-week sessions the students interacted with NASA personnel and other students to learn about Wallops research activities, developing science missions, and how to perform as a team.

“The three virtual Academies were very successful and demonstrated the importance of continuing to provide students with NASA opportunities even during the pandemic, said Joyce Winterton, Wallops Senior Advisor for Education and Leadership Development. “The Academy supports the development of NASA’s future STEM workforce. This collaboration with Wallops, the Virginia Space Grant and funding from the Commonwealth of Virginia continues to have a positive impact on the education and career planning of high school students."  

The Academy includes a five-module online course for high school sophomores during the spring semester, focusing on the science, engineering, and technology integral to current missions at Wallops. Upon completion of the online program, top performing scholars are invited to participate in the summer academy.

Through the online course, students learn basic project management, data analysis, and teamwork skills required for a successful payload and launch. They also learn how science drives the engineering and space mission design process.

 “With the closure of NASA Wallops to all but essential personnel because of the pandemic, we were very pleased that we were able to offer this academy virtually this summer,” said Mary Sandy, director of the Virginia Space Grant Consortium. “NASA Wallops personnel and the Space Grant staff worked closely together to give the students an experience that paralleled the on-site experience at Wallops as they designed their missions on a variety of aerial and space platforms. The outcome exceeded all our expectations. The scholars were very comfortable working in a virtual venue and reported having a great experience overall.”

As part of the program, the Space Grant developed a summary celebration video for each week. Links to each of the weekly programs are below.

Week 1:

Week 2:

Week 3: