Texas Tech University

Outreach

 

Texas Tech University's “The Ardon-Dryer Aerosol Group” Brings She Space International to Lubbock, A Multi-National Science Outreach Program for Female High School Students

By: Dr. Karin Ardon-Dryer

 She Space International is a first-of-its-kind international educational program for the advancement of STEM among 14-16 year old high school girls. The She Space program started in 2018 at the Earth and Planetary Image Facility at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel in memory of Debora Blumberg; at 2019 the program was expanded internationally to include research institutions from 4 countries, Israel (EPIF, BGU), Germany (DLR School Lab Oberpfaffenhofen), Brazil (Rural Federal University of Pernambuco), and the USA (Aerosol Group at Texas Tech University). During the project, teams of students from the 4 countries, guided by faculty and students from a research group at each institution, embark on joint study through which participating students are exposed to cutting-edge academic research and utilize imaging and communications collected or provided by the satellites and space agencies of their respective home countries.

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 In 2018, while visiting at the Ben-Gurion University, Dr. Ardon-Dryer met with Dr. Shimrit Maman who leads the She Space Program. Following her visit, Dr. Ardon-Dryer and her aerosol research group joined the program, adding Texas Tech University as the Institute representing the USA. The program officially started in April of 2019 with a round of interviews of high school students from around Lubbock, a diverse group of 9 students was selected to participate. During the months of May and June, the students attended weekly meetings; they were taught the necessary concepts and skills that they would require to complete their research projects. Throughout the program, the students also took part in intercontinental conference calls and gave progress updates. The last meeting was a conference call with all the program participants; each team presented a full report of its findings, in addition, all the participants received a special surprise video message from the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs Director, Simonetta Di Pippo.

 This year program has ended, the students' feedback was positive, and all agreed that they would recommend this program to others. One student stated that participating in the program has opened her minds to new opportunities, that it was motivating and inspiring. Other students felt it gave them new appreciation, that they gained new interest in STEM. Looking forward, Dr. Ardon-Dryer is hoping to continue with the program, she is hoping to have some of the students return to help, but more than all she is excited to see where they will go from here.

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“Water, Water, Everywhere” STEM Outreach

 
 

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Water, Water Everywhere' – STEM outreach activity to middle-school girls (see photo) and the new Environmental Geologyconcentration in the Geosciences BS degree.

 

While West Texas may be geologically best known for the productive oil and gas deposits of the Permian Basin, environmental geology is also an important component of our economy, lives and deeply intertwined with the petroleum industry. In oil-rich, dust-blowing West Texas, we have a shortage of water in terms of both precipitation and surface water. The treasured Ogallala aquifer continues to decline, resulting from decades of over-withdraw. Impacts of urban development and industrial activities on the environment have become palpable, including natural occurrences of toxic elements and contamination by manmade chemicals in soils and groundwater. Additionally, the petroleum industry uses significant amounts of water for exploration and development of reserves, collectively known as the Energy–Water Nexus.

In order to meet these competing needs it is necessary to educate and train a new generation of diverse geoscientists with broad skills in Geosciences. The Department of Geosciences is addressing this need through public outreach and enhancements to the undergraduate curriculum.

Recently, a group of Geosciences faculty (Dr. Moira Ridley, Dr Juske Horita, and Dr. Neo McAdams) and volunteer students (Alex Washburn, Raven Landers, Karen Yao, and Shanice Diniz) hosted a one-day Tech Savvy workshop titled ‘Water, Water Everywhere'. Tech Savvy is a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) outreach program for middle-schools girls. The ‘Water, Water Everywhere' workshop focused on water and environment related issues in West Texas. Twenty-three middle-school girls from as far as away as Fort Stockton attended the workshop as well as an eager 8 year-old participant, Taylor, whose father was one of the graduate student presenters.

The workshop included an introduction to the water cycle and hands-on activities depicting groundwater and aquifers, mixed with lively discussions and interactions between faculty, student instructors and the girls. The workshop closed with an important discussion of water conservation. We plan to continue this new Tech Savvy workshop for middle-school girls, hoping that they may choose water and environment related subjects at high schools, and perhaps one-day a major in Geoscience here at TTU or another institution.

In 2017 the undergraduate BS in Geosciences was expanded to include a concentration in Environmental Geology. The department's desire to meet increasing demand for students pursuing careers in environment geology prompted the introduction of this new concentration. We added new senior-level course in Hydrogeology, which is currently taught by Dr. William Asquith (son to emeritus Dr. George Asquith) of USGS Texas Water Science Center in Lubbock, TX. Dr. William Asquith holds a Ph.D. in Geosciences as well as a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering and is an adjunct faculty member. 

We are excited to announce that our first Environmental Geology BS student will graduate in May 2019 and roughly, 10% of the current undergraduate students have chosen this track.  While a plurality of TTU Geosciences students continue to be interested in careers in the petroleum industry, we believe the new concentration is complimentary to providing the broad skills necessary in the field of Geosciences. A number of our graduates are successfully finding careers in industry and agencies related to environmental geosciences.

 

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Hands-on activity with discussion of aquifers and groundwater.

 

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Dr. William Asquith teaches a new Hydrogeology class