EKU, KET Share Technology Award from ConnectKentucky

photo of award recipients

Eastern Kentucky University and Kentucky Educational Television have received the Government Leadership in Technology Award from Connect Kentucky for their partnership, along with NASA, that brought 160 middle school students to the EKU campus last January to stoke their interest in science and space travel.

The event, at EKU’s Hummel Planetarium and Perkins Building, allowed 23 of the students to speak to an astronaut aboard the International Space Station. EKU was selected as one of only six downlink sites nationwide. “From the Bluegrass to the Blue Marble: Systems in Space” was broadcast live on KET.

The middle school students in attendance, coming from 46 schools throughout the University’s service region, had been identified as gifted and talented in science and/or mathematics. They also participated in a variety of other educational activities during the day-long event.

Dr. Jaleh Rezaie, interim director of the STEM-H Institute at Eastern, was on hand at ConnectKentucky’s seventh annual Tech Day in Frankfort to accept the award along with representatives of KET.

EKU established a STEM-H Institute in 2011 with three goals in mind: to support and expand partnerships between the University and K-20 schools and communities, advance the public understanding of the needs and opportunities in STEM-H disciplines (science, technology, engineering, mathematics and health), and increase learning opportunities and levels of achievement for K-20 students in the STEM-H disciplines.

"This project allows us to fulfill all three goals,” Rezaie said prior to the event. “We are focusing on the middle school students since research has shown that this age group is the most vulnerable. This is the time they decide about their educational interests. Often it is the time they lose interest in math and science. What excites me is the opportunity to inspire and excite the students and teachers about mathematics, science and technology.”

Each participating school was assigned a team of EKU mentors (faculty, students and staff) to assist with event-related projects. During the downlink day, faculty judged the students’ team projects and led discussions.

Becky Kamas, education specialist with NASA, said EKU and KET had “an excellent plan for involving students in STEM activities before and after the downlink to engage many, many students in the state.”

In addition to providing technical support to help facilitate the downlink, KET significantly extended the reach and excitement of the event by bringing it to classrooms throughout Kentucky. KET made the downlink session available for viewing anytime through its online resources for teachers and students and has produced related digital learning resources.

ConnectKentucky, a subsidiary of the national non-profit Connected Nation, is an alliance of technology-minded businesses, government entities, and universities working together to accelerate technology in the Commonwealth.

Published on November 19, 2013