ODUOnline, Old Dominion University's office of distance learning, partnered with the Virginia Space Grant Consortium's (VSGC) summer program series for high school and community college students this year.
This annual event focuses on aerospace education and research and is usually done in person at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton and other partner sites. This year, the tradition was altered by COVID-19 distancing guidelines.
"It became very evident that it wasn't going to be possible to do programs on site at NASA," VSGC Director Mary Sandy said, "and we'd have to look at doing virtual programs."
That's where ODUOnline came in. ODU's academic technology services, led by Miguel Ramlatchan, collaborated with the VSGC team to set up this year's program, testing the necessary platforms and training the teams.
Mentored by NASA and other industry mentors, 421 pre-college students and 25 community college students were able to work together to design and present NASA missions. They addressed science and technology needs, served in roles that mirrored real-life flight teams and presented their work to experts. Students stayed logged and worked even after the program adjourned following a 12-hour day.
"The students really got into what was going on," said Rudo Kashiri, VSGC education programs manager. "We were worried about participation lasting the whole day, but we were surprised."
This isn't the first time ODUOnline and VSGC have worked together. Last fall, ODUOnline assisted with a series of webinars focused on cutting-edge aeronautics. There likely will be other collaborations.
"The response was really excellent," Sandy said. "(The students) were very capable of working in a virtual environment. It was very easy and natural for them."
The Virginia Space Grant Consortium is a coalition of five Virginia colleges and universities, NASA, state educational agencies, Virginia's Center for Innovative Technology, and other institutions representing diverse aerospace education and research. Read more about it at vsgc.odu.edu.
ODU has been delivering distance learning programs for 30 years. It offers more than 100 programs through ODUOnline in a variety of formats, allowing students to complete degree programs across the world. Learn more about ODUOnline's programs by visiting online.odu.edu.