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The Aerospace Academy for Engineering and Teacher Education
San Jacinto College
The Aerospace Academy for
Engineering and Teacher Education, formally started in December 2000,
demonstrates what can be accomplished when education, industry, and government
work together to address local and national workforce needs. The shortages
of engineering and other high-technology practitioners, and decreasing
numbers of educators specializing in mathematics and science, threaten
both the economy and security of the United States. The Aerospace Academy,
an innovative, multipartner K-18 collaboration, was created to address
these shortages while helping to maintain high skills in incumbent aerospace
workers and math/science teachers.
The development of the collaboration required a number of partners
ranging from educational institutions to industry and federal organizations.
The committed primary partners include:
Baylor College of Medicine
Clear Creek Independent
Clear Lake Area Business
Clear Lake Area Economic
NASA-Johnson Space Center
Prairie View A&M
San Jacinto College District
Space Center Houston
University of Houston-Clear
University of Texas Medical
The idea for the Academy
originated with the Chancellor of the San Jacinto College District, the
President of the University of Houston-Clear Lake, the then-Director of
the Johnson Space Center, and the Superintendent of the Clear Creek Independent
School District. They believed that there should be an organized focus
for using the excitement of human space exploration to address related
Three committees have been instrumental in the creation of the Academy.
First, a Concept Committee made up of education, industry, and government
representatives spent almost a year developing the concept, vision, mission,
goals, and organization of the Academy with involvement of a number of
persons and groups and based on detailed research. Once the concept was
reviewed and approved by the Academy's Executive Oversight Board and Advisory
Board, the Concept Committee, under Dr. Marie Dalton of San Jacinto College,
then segued into an Implementation Committee.
Some partners were invited to participate, while others asked to join
the collaboration because they shared the same concerns and vision. From
the beginning, the Academy concept included two rings of partners: (1)
primary partners and (2) other groups that either access the services
of the Academy (e.g., other school districts) or provide support and assistance
to the Academy (e.g., other businesses or educational institutions).
The Aerospace Academy is administratively attached to San Jacinto College.
While most Academy projects are grant funded or assisted by partner contributions,
the Executive Vice President, Dr. Dalton, is a full-time employee of San
Jacinto College. San Jacinto also assists in project development in other
ways. For example, San Jacinto College operates as the fiscal agent for
the Academy, and many Academy classes are provided in conjunction with
the campuses (which in turn receive tuition, fees, and contact hour reimbursement).
The project goals are:
1) Produce a highly educated
workforce for aerospace and other high tech employers.
2) Increase the quality and number of educators qualified to teach science,
math, and technology.
3) Reduce employer labor costs and increase the number of persons in
the aerospace and other technical labor pools by moving students through
the educational system faster.
4) Create a "nursery" of high-tech Texans through programs enabling
high school students to engage in learning relationships with the aerospace
industry and in other ways.
To accomplish these objectives, the Academy is organized under three institutes,
all of which offer new services to the primary partners and community:
The COSMOS (Community-Oriented Science and Mathematics Opportunities for
Students) Institute serves as the high school or secondary component that
prepares students to become productive members of high-tech industries.
With funding assistance from Houston Endowment to the Aerospace Academy,
Clear Creek Independent School District (CCISD) and Pasadena Independent
School District (PISD) - the two largest districts serving the Johnson
Space Center area - are developing four new high technology curricula:
aerospace, biomedical sciences, petrochemical, and information technology.
These programs include field experiences for all participating students
and are team taught by CCISD and PISD teachers using video conferencing.
COSMOS began its first classes in August 2002 with 120 students. As COSMOS
activities are further developed, its work will reach down into more primary
Mathematics/Science Teacher Institute
The Mathematics/Science Teacher Institute was developed to identify teacher
needs, generate new concepts for improving the teaching of mathematics
and science through a "think tank" model, and implement new math and science
instructional approaches and strategies.
In the first Aerospace Academy class, "Making Connections," 22 mathematics
teachers from nine different school districts and community colleges throughout
Texas learned firsthand how the mathematics concepts they teach are used
in aerospace applications. The course was conducted with assistance from
NASA-Johnson Space Center, Lockheed Martin Space Operations, Barrios Technology,
and Space Center Houston. The Texas Legislature in both House and Senate
sessions formally recognized the success of this innovative instructional
model - and the instructors, participants, and administrators who designed
and shaped it. Signed certificates were awarded and honorees were invited
to a reception in the Lieutenant Governor's Conference Room in Austin
in conjunction with Space Day 2001. This class is now available to over
700 middle school, high school, and community college teachers throughout
Texas as part of a $600,000 APEX grant from the Texas Workforce Commission,
and to teachers nationally as part of a National Science Foundation (NSF)
The APEX grant also provides opportunities for teachers to participate
in one-month internships and one-week job shadowing in the aerospace industry
with substitute pay being provided by the Houston Area Technology Advancement
Center. The APEX grant also includes the creation of an online master
resource directory for math teachers.
High Technology Institute
The second institute within the Academy, the High Technology Institute,
offers a variety of services and training to identify and respond to critical
skills shortages in the aerospace and other high technology labor pools.
Several activities are underway through the institute, including coordination
of NASA's KC-135 Student Flight Program and NASA's Community College Aerospace
Scholars Program. The latter activity, being conducted under a grant from
NASA-Johnson Space Center to San Jacinto College North, extends the successful
high school program to include community college students. The goal of
this program is to provide an aerospace-related experience for nontraditional
community college students throughout Texas, including Web-based pre-work
and a visit to NASA-Johnson Space Center to work in teams on a Mars-related
project. The program showcases engineering and other high-technology fields
by offering students the opportunity to interact with engineers and scientists
Other significant activities underway in the Aerospace Academy are the
administration of a $2.4 million High Technology Initiatives grant and
participation in a $3 million National Science Foundation grant. The High
Technology Initiatives grant (through the Texas Workforce Commission)
provides training for 1,140 incumbent and new aerospace employees. Areas
of training include information technology, design, manufacturing, and
many leading-edge topics unique to the aerospace industry. Top experts
from around the country teach many of these training classes.
Trainees include employees within 36 participating aerospace organizations:
Aerotek, Analytical Specialties, Atlantic Science & Technology, Inc.,
Barrios Technology, Bastion Technology, BES Engineering, Cimarron, DDMS
Technologies, Inc., Dynacs Engineering, Enterprise Advisory Services,
GB Tech, Inc., Geocontrol Systems, Geologics Corporation, GHG Corp., Hamilton
Sunstrand, Hernandez Engineering, Honeywell International, ICES, ILC Dover,
InDyne, Lockheed Martin, MD Space Robotics Corporation, Metrica, Inc.,
MRI Technologies, Muniz Engineering, NASA-Johnson Space Center, Oceaneering
Space Systems, Raytheon, Rothe Joint Venture, Science Applications International
Corp., Spacehab, The Boeing Company, Titan Systems Corporation, United
Space Alliance, Washington Group, Inc., and Wyle Laboratories.
Through the NSF grant, San Jacinto College and the Aerospace Academy are
members of a national 10-college consortium focused on aerospace education
and teacher training: SpaceTEC, an aerospace science Technical Education
Center of Excellence. The goal of SpaceTEC is to foster interest in science,
mathematics, and technology education in the United States and to provide
education for the technical workforce using an alliance of representatives
from business and industry, government agencies, and academic institutions.
As described throughout, the Aerospace Academy, though less than two years
old, is having a strong immediate impact on its targeted workforce. Through
its efforts, almost 2,000 current or potential aerospace professionals,
high-tech workers, and educators have received or are receiving specialized
education and training. With close ties to the Texas Aerospace Commission,
the Texas Workforce Commission, and other agencies and groups, it has
become a focus and umbrella for aerospace-related instruction, leading
to additional key referrals and linkages.
Future Project Developments
Projects underway are yielding great success and providing opportunities
for expansion and replication of Academy efforts in a variety of settings
beyond the immediate area. One outstanding example is the National Science
Foundation grant. A significant component in SpaceTEC is the provision
of the Aerospace Academy's successful "Making Connections" class, in modular
form, to teachers in participating community colleges and to more than
1,000 high schools across the country. The modules will thus enable teachers
to replicate this successful work with additional teachers in their areas,
and the number of students to be affected by these efforts is potentially
in the thousands.
Another project being facilitated by the Academy is the creation of a
multipartner, statewide network of school districts, community colleges,
and universities in Texas, to help ensure a skilled workforce for space
commercialization and related industries - particularly those tied to
The Academy is also focusing on getting more students, especially those
from underrepresented populations, into the high-tech pipeline through
financial incentives, mentoring, aerospace internships, and specialized
support services. Several strategic industry groups have stepped forward
to help with this activity.
The creation and progress of the Aerospace Academy has been a formative
process and collective success. The following is a list of ideas, suggestions,
and wisdom for collaborative development from experienced project team
1. Be prepared to spend time developing your concept with involvement
of and input from many people and groups. It might have been helpful if
I had cautioned participants in the concept-building that the creative
process sometimes feels messy, slow, or unfocused.
2. Have your vision and mission firmly in mind. To avoid digressions and
to move forward smoothly, be aware that the tendency may be to run with
every good idea presented. There were times when I had to pull myself
and others back on track.
3. Identify partners and get them committed early. We were fortunate to
have commitment from high-visibility, respected partners early on, making
it easier to get others aboard.
4. Have adequate representations on all appropriate committees/boards:
education, industry, and government. My experience has been that membership
on the Executive Oversight Board and Advisory Board remain fairly stable,
while that of the Implementation Committee can change as members' job
5. Develop norms as early as possible to help ensure ongoing commitment.
For example, because of an early decision to have the Advisory Board chaired
by the Johnson Space Center director, the Academy has had continuity of
leadership even though JSC now has its third director since the inception
of the Academy.
6. Develop an adequate financial base - grants, partners, and foundations.
It was helpful to gather partner contributions early for two reasons:
(1) to build a cushion for development and (2) to gain official buy-in
and recognition that costs are involved. The Academy is organized so that
only the primary educational partners contribute money, while industry
partners provide assistance in other ways. Because of our good luck in
acquiring major grants early, these partner financial contributions have
occurred only once thus far.
7. Communicate! Communicate! Communicate! The combination of a new concept,
large, complex institutions and organizations, and multiple players requires
a tremendous amount of communication. I find every day that there is no
such thing as providing too much information.
8. Be prepared to work harder than you ever imagined. Developing a concept,
building coalitions, writing grants, seeking funds, implementing objectives,
and building teams require time, energy, and plain hard work, but the
results are well worth the effort.
The Aerospace Academy is an effective example of how an innovative collaboration
can provide both short-term and long-term improvement to community college
teaching and learning, student services, workforce development, community
service, continuing education, and institutional management. It also demonstrates
how such partnerships can leverage limited resources to the maximum benefit
of our students and employers, our institutions, and our economy.
As demonstrated by the quick accomplishments of this innovative education-industry-government
partnership, our society, economy, and educational systems are hungering
for collaborations that can produce profound results in addressing shortages
of engineering and other high-technology practitioners and the mathematics
and science teachers needed to produce that workforce. The Aerospace Academy
is an outstanding example of how such collaborations might and can work-and
of the far-reaching effects of local initiatives.
For more information, contact:
Executive Vice President
San Jacinto College District
For questions and additional
connect with the authors through the