Flight and fancy at new NASA lab

A new NASA Aeronautics Education Laboratory in Los Angeles allows students

to use computer workstations that simulate planning a flight, checking equipment

and flying around the country.

Using 10 state-of-the-art computers, students can study aeronautics

by examining elements of satellite global positioning, remote sensing, amateur

radio and aircraft design.

The final step — participating in the virtual flight across the country — allows students to "visit" NASA's four aeronautical centers, take tours

and use wind tunnels.

"It's a much better and exciting way for students to learn about aeronautics,"

said Jo Anne Charleston, chief of the Office of Education Programs at NASA's

Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio. "It's better than reading it from

a textbook."

NASA has 15 such labs across the country, but the one that opened in

Los Angeles last week is the first in the western part of the country. Another

lab will open June 26 in Atlanta. Two others are being planned: One will

teach students about zero gravity, and the other will allow students to

visit a virtual space station, act as commander and launch or repair a satellite.

Charleston said teachers often bring their classes to the labs after

first using a NASA-prepared curriculum to familiarize students with the

topics. Designed for students in grades seven through 12, the labs also

help teachers learn about NASA. Many people, she said, don't realize that

NASA also works in aeronautics, not just space travel.

NASA's Office of Equal Opportunity Programs provided $200,000 to establish

the laboratory; the Glenn Research Center designed and implemented it.

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