RoundupReads Johnson Team Makes Rodeo Appearance, Highlights Students and STEM

Johnson Team Makes Rodeo Appearance, Highlights Students and STEM

by Catherine Ragin Williams | 2022-03-10

Whether speaking of (howdy) partners or enduring partnerships, NASA’s Johnson Space Center and Rodeo Houston have shared in one important mission over the years: equipping young people to pursue and reach their educational goals. As Rodeo Houston resumed its festivities following a two-year hiatus due to pandemic concerns, the Johnson team was excited to make an appearance at the grand event on March 5, joining the opening parade and more.

“This past weekend, our Johnson Space Center team joined the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo in celebrating NASA’s achievements. This year is particularly special for us, as we celebrate Johnson Space Center’s 60th anniversary in Houston,” said Johnson Director Vanessa Wyche. “We applaud Rodeo Houston for promoting agriculture and supporting the youth of Texas. We also thank them for their continued support of the Texas Aerospace Scholars Program. Rodeo Houston has been a major contributor throughout the program’s history, and its success can be largely attributed to their commitment to the program.”

Special Johnson guests included Wyche, astronauts Loral O’Hara and Frank Rubio, and a cadre of Johnson’s leadership team and Office of STEM Engagement (OSTEM) professionals.

Connecting Our Past with the Future
While Johnson Space Center sprang up, quite literally, out of a cow pasture, it should come as no surprise that Johnson honors the past while looking forward to a future that, with Artemis and students of the Artemis Generation, includes far-flung destinations like the Moon. And even though we’ll reach the Moon with spacecraft like Orion instead of horses and longhorns, remembering our storied history and investing in education — especially science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM subjects — is a commitment shared by Johnson and the rodeo’s charitable endeavors.

One OSTEM activity has flourished thanks to continued rodeo involvement and investment. High School Aerospace Scholars (HAS) is a NASA-unique program in which students are immersed in STEM while completing an online experience during the fall semester of their junior year after being nominated by their state legislators. The online experience includes four modules, virtual chat sessions with NASA experts, and projects that expand the students’ understanding of STEM topics and career opportunities. The module lessons and activities are graded by Texas-certified teachers. In addition, students who successfully complete the HAS programs receive a science elective credit from their high school, as approved by the Texas Education Agency. In the summer, after successful completion of the online experience, participants are invited to participate in Moonshot, a five-day gamified virtual experience. All this is made possible and, more importantly, free for students because of funding partners like the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

This year, HAS reached students in 183 Texas cities and 334 Texas high schools, including 25 cities and 56 schools that had not been part of it before. Now in its 23rd year, the hallmark educational program has received more than 13,600 total applications for participation from students across Texas, spanning every legislative district in the state. More than 6,000 young people have even completed the summer experience, with 462 certified Texas teachers serving as technical reviewers and counselors.

Bucking the usual trends in STEM education, 30% of HAS participants come from rural high schools. And, showing the far-reaching impact of the rodeo collaboration, more than 50% of high schools hailing from Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo counties have students taking part in HAS.

As much as Texas is known for its Old West history, Houston boasts the “Space City” moniker and serves as the home of human spaceflight, NASA’s astronaut corps, and the next giant leap. Johnson and its uncommon partnership with Rodeo Houston is rooted in the common purpose of reaching, inspiring, and educating the students of the Lone Star State — and its one tradition that these organizations have no plans to outgrow.

See images from the Johnson’s rodeo visit below (click to enlarge).