STA Teachers Invited to NASA Johnson Space Center

News Date : 02/21/2017

Saint Thomas Academy to Participate in Microgravity University for Educators Activity at NASA Johnson Space Center

MENDOTA HEIGHTS, Minn., Feb. 16, 2017 A team of educators representing Saint Thomas Academy is one of 12 teams nationally invited to NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston in April to test student-derived experiments in a simulated microgravity environment as part of the Microgravity University for Educators program. The Saint Thomas Academy 5-teacher team includes:

  • Caroline Little, Saint Thomas Academy French teacher
  • Mark Westlake, Saint Thomas Academy physics teacher
  • Kara Ehlert, Saint Thomas Academy math teacher
  • Ted Siefkes, Scott Highlands Middle School (Apple Valley) science teacher
  • Emily Dauk, Mankato East High School math teacher

Through a competitive process, educator teams submitted proposals to perform orbital insertion experiments on behalf of their K-12 students at Johnson Space Center’s astronaut training facilities. The approximately 42 Saint Thomas Academy students were challenged to design a solution to a technical problem, or improve an existing solution, identified by NASA scientists and engineers who use simulated microgravity environments in their work. A NASA engineer or scientist guides each participating team through the engineering design process. Once at Johnson, the teachers will test the students’ Satellite Launching Experimental Device (SLED) on the Precision Air Bearing Floor.

The students developed three key design parameters for their SLED early in the project:

  • The disk must always be shot straight.
  • The disk must leave the launcher at the same speed. 
  • The design must be simple.

“It has become an increasingly complex problem for us to solve,” Little said, “It has provided our hands-on students and our top math students an interesting challenge.”

The testing will be shared via videoconference / live-streaming by NASA Ustream. A link will be provided for community members and the public prior to the testing date. Saint Thomas Academy’s team will also be posting updates and photos to its Microgravity University Facebook page:

About Microgravity University for Educators
Microgravity University for Educators provides 50 continuing professional education hours through training on NASA Education resources about microgravity and how NASA simulates microgravity on earth. Microgravity University for Educators is funded through the STEM Education Accountability Project to help advance NASA Education’s contribution to the national Co-STEM goal of preparing 100,000 new K-12 STEM teachers by 2020.

About Saint Thomas Academy
Founded in 1885, Saint Thomas Academy is an all-male, college preparatory, Catholic, military/leadership school committed to preparing young men to succeed in college and in life. The Academy challenges its students, currently grades 7-12, to excel academically, spiritually, morally and physically in and out of the classroom. In the fall of 2017, 6th grade will be added to the Saint Thomas Academy Middle School. It is fully accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States (ISACS); a member of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), the Minnesota Association of Independent Schools (MAIS), and the Association of Military Colleges and Schools of the United States (AMCSUS). For more information, please visit       

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Media Contacts:

Amy Nugent
For Saint Thomas Academy

William Jeffs
Johnson Space Center, Houston

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