For release: 09/24/02
Release #: 02-238
Education programs at Marshall Center help Harvard student teach others, shape futures
Students who returned to classes this fall may find themselves writing about what they did during summer vacation. For Huntsville, Ala., native Brian Barnes, the answer was the same as the past four years -- just another summer in the classroom. But for Barnes, a participant in NASA educational internship programs, summer "classroom" was at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. And there's no place he'd rather be.
Photo: Brian Barnes, center, receives certificate for participating in the Visiting Researcher Exchange and Outreach Program. (NASA)
Students who returned to classes fall may find themselves writing about what they did during summer vacation. For Huntsville, Ala., native Brian Barnes, the answer was the same as the past four years – just another summer in the classroom.
But for Barnes, a participant in NASA educational internship programs, summer “classroom” was at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. And there’s no place he’d rather be.
For five summers, Barnes, a 2002 graduate of Morehouse College in Atlanta, has participated in three NASA educational internship programs at the Marshall Center. Coming up through these programs has helped convince him to make a career out of the classroom -- trading the role of student for that of educator. This fall, he will begin pursuing a graduate degree in education from Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. Part of the credit for his achievements, Barnes says, goes to NASA.
“I’m very excited about this opportunity. My NASA experiences have helped greatly in setting the goals I want to accomplish when I’m a teacher in the classroom. At Harvard, I know I’ll be getting the best instruction to become a professional educator,” said Barnes.
While honing his keen talents for math and science at Lee High School in Huntsville, Barnes became involved in NASA’s Summer High School Apprenticeship Research Program, called “SHARP” for short. The annual internship program, introduced in 1980, is designed to attract a diverse group of high school students to aerospace careers. During the summer, students work with scientists and engineers, performing assignments under the supervision of NASA mentors. As a SHARP intern, Barnes worked in the astrionics and propulsion labs at the Marshall Center.
As a math major at Morehouse, Barnes moved out of the SHARP program, becoming a Ronald E McNair Scholar at the Marshall Center for three summers. The award honors McNair, the second African-American in space and a member of the Space Shuttle crew that died during the 1986 Challenger accident. NASA’s McNair Scholars program is administered through Morehouse College to encourage male students who show an interest in math and science. As part of his scholarship, Barnes continued his work with mechanical engineers in the Marshall Center’s propulsion labs. He also assisted in the development of the Center’s Freedom of Information Act Web site, as well as summer internship Web sites.
This summer – Barnes’ last at the Marshall Center – he was involved with NASA’s Visiting Researcher Exchange and Outreach Program, designed to promote collaboration between NASA, industry, and colleges and universities. Barnes spent the summer working at NASA’s Educator Resource Center in Huntsville. The Educator Resource Center is a NASA facility that provides space-related information for educators. He planned and presented numerous workshops for Huntsville and surrounding area math teachers, showing them how to use NASA’s vast education resources to support their efforts in the classroom.
Barnes not only provided motivation and information to teachers. Some of their enthusiasm rubbed off on him as well. “The exchanges with the teachers motivated me the most,” he says. “It let me see first-hand that there’s a broad scope of people nationwide, even worldwide, that are committed to education.”
And teachers are not the only group Barnes was able to motivate. During the summer, he took NASA’s educational message to the Huntsville community – and the next generation of students. He has spoken to church and youth groups about opportunities available with NASA, as well as his own experiences in internship programs at the Marshall Center.
“Brian has been a real inspiration to follow through all these programs,” says Alicia Beam of NASA’s Education Programs Department. “He has taken full advantage of the opportunities available to him, and they have taken him very far.”
Given Barnes’ track record and passion for education, it’s no surprise that his mother and two uncles are professional educators. Barnes has learned – from his family, teachers and mentors at NASA – the importance of education and the value of leading by example. Soon, he may be the one asking his students that daunting question: “What did you do for your summer vacation?”
For more information: