University News

Meteorites and Rockets Broaden Space Education

November 28, 2016
Author: Lexi Carter
Category: Academics


Professors Siahpush, Munro and Vanderford with President Scott WyattThe Engineering and Technology Department at Southern Utah University, in coordination with professionals at Utah State University, have purchased two pieces of a meteorite through the NASA Utah Space Grant Consortium. The meteorites will be used in lab demonstrations and analysis, training for Iron County teachers and student recruitment to the SUU Engineering program.

The Department of Engineering and Technology at SUU helps encourage students in science, technology and engineering with hands-on, applied experiences. Dr. Ali Siahpush, associate professor of engineering, has worked with multiple NASA projects during his career, including the design of a multi-layer insulation blanket and shuttle flights, and currently represents SUU in the NASA Space Grant Consortium.

 "Dr. Munro and I would like to leverage the student and community interest in model rocketry," said Siahpush. "The goal is to create or expand the existing SUU student-led club to reach out to the K-12 community. We hope to foster an interest in aerospace and engineering through children designing, building and flying model rockets."

Throughout the 2015-16 school year, students in the Engineering Design Lab I and II courses, led by Dr. Scott Munro, associate professor of engineering, prepared for the Experimental Sounding Rocket Association’s Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition. As the only university in Utah to compete, SUU’s name stood out among the list of national and international institutions during the June 2016 competition. After the competition, engineering faculty were approached by people in the community with an interest in creating a model rocketry club geared toward K-12. 

Students in the Rocket ClubThe partnership with the NASA Utah Space Grant Consortium and the newly purchased meteorites will also provide SUU faculty a chance to encourage students in a variety of technical areas, such as upper atmospheric physics, mathematics (orbital mechanics), space environment and solar systems. Fostering cross-department cooperation at faculty and student levels, different lab courses and the SUU Rocket Club will allow each participant to bring their unique expertise to contribute to the multi-disciplinary learning environment.

SUU also has funding to host a two-day Science Teacher Workshop designed by the NASA Utah Space Grant Consortium to provide teachers with professional development in STEM instruction. Schools in southern Utah will be able to customize the workshops, learning about topics from ‘The Hubble Telescope’ and 'Origin of the Moon' to 'Dinosaurs' and 'The Human Body in Space'.

SUU was one of the first higher education institutes to join the NASA Space Grant Consortium in 1991. Over the years, a collaborative effort between the Utah NASA Space Grant Consortium and Utah higher education institutions such as SUU, University of Utah and Utah State University produced successful higher education workshops and programs.

Students and community members interested in the SUU Rocket Club (K-12 or collegiate) can contact Dr. Scott Munro at scottmunro@suu.edu. Students and community members interested to participating in the Teacher Workshop can call Dr. Ali Siahpush at alisiahpush@suu.edu.

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Nikki Koontz, assistant director of marketing
435-586-5487
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