Nasa training for UAE teachers to nurture future innovators

Last year’s Think Science fair in Dubai – Kerry Kennedy (left), CEO of Honeywell, Don Thomas, ex-astronaut from NASA and Deborah Barnhart, CEO of US Space & Rocket Center. Pawan Singh / The National

UAE educators are to attend simulated astronaut training sessions and rocket building courses at a Nasa facility in the United States to help bring skills to their classroom that will help produce the scientists and coders of the future.

Lara Chouman was among the first batch of four teachers from the Emirates to be selected last year for the Honeywell Educators at Space Academy programme.

“I knew it would be a unique experience and there is so much we learnt that I have begun implementing in class,” said Ms Chouman, a grade 9 biology and general sciences teacher at Al Ittihad Private School in Jumeirah.

After returning from the US, she began an astronomy class in the school and helped students conduct experiments on heat transfer.

“There is so much that students can learn about outer space, astronauts and rockets. I relate all this also to the UAE’s space vision. We usually teach basic conduction and convection in classrooms. This year, we had experiments to understand how a shield can protect something like an egg from the direct heat of a flame torch to show how astronauts are protected with thick insulation layers,” said Ms Chouman, explaining how students were keen to find out whether the heat warmed or cooked the egg depending on the intensity of the flame.

“As teachers, we are preparing children for the future, maybe some of our students could be future astronauts. Many students question what happens outside their planet and they are always interested to learn more.”

Four UAE-based teachers have been selected for the programme, which promotes science, technology, engineering and maths at the US Space & Rocket Centre in Huntsville, Alabama.

The aim of the programme is to invest in teachers to create scientists, engineers and programmers of the future, said Norm Gilsdorf, president of Honeywell Middle East, Russia, Turkey and Central Asia.

“You can see the excitement and passion the four teachers shared when they returned last year with additional experience that helped them better explain concepts to students. Dubai and Abu Dhabi are also focused on aerospace in the country with the space programme. We too are committed to developing the next generation of scientists and engineers,” he said.

The teachers from this year’s batch are from the Applied Technology High School in Al Ain, the International Community School in Abu Dhabi, the International School of Creative Science in Sharjah, Greenwood International School in Dubai and Al Khaleej National School.

They will join hundreds of teachers from across the world for the week-long programme in June, according to an announcement from Honeywell, a software-industrial company, at the Think Science fair in Dubai on Tuesday.

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Read more:

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Search for the fantastic four: Sheikh Mohammed begins hunt for first Emirati astronauts

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Since the Honeywell programme began in 2004, 2,776 educators from 62 countries have been selected, following a rigorous application process.

The sessions include 45 hours of classroom, laboratory and field-training activities covering simulated astronaut training exercises, high-performance jet simulations, scenario-based space missions, coding, rocket building and flying programmes.

“This world-class programme has enabled them to gain cutting-edge skills and know-how in science, technology and engineering to nurture tomorrow’s innovators who will lead our nation to become a top global science and technology leader,” said Maytha Al Habsi, chief executive of the Emirates Foundation, which organises the annual Think Science programme.

The fair runs until Wednesday at the Dubai World Trade Centre.

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