One teacher in Liberty County has brought Hinesville to NASA and NASA to Hinesville.
Over the last seven months Frank Long Elementary School gifted teacher Becky Busby had the opportunity to work with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.
Her journey started in December after taking a NASA course for teachers. She applied to be a member of NASA’s Space Education Expedition Conference crew, and was selected to work with 35 other teachers from across the nation. The goal of the SEEC crew, called “Quest,” is providing professional development for teachers and spread science, technology, engineering and mathematics education with NASA and Boeing.
“I never thought they would pick me, little Becky from Hinesville, Georgia,” she said about the application process.
In June Busby participated in the LiftOff Summer Institute at the Johnson Space Center, sponsored by the NASA’s Texas Space Grant Consortium, along with 55 teachers.
Busby met former astronauts Clayton Anderson, Jerry Ross, Apollo 13 crewmember Fred Haise and former engineer Norman Chaffee, who worked on spacecraft propulsion.
She wore an astronaut glove, visited the old and new mission control rooms, robotics lab and food science lab, where she sampled food that has been on the International Space Station.
“The food lab was interesting because they really take into account what the astronauts like and what they prefer,” Busby said. Busby brought back freeze dried chicken teriyaki, baked beans and other foods.
Busby said she felt empowered seeing the women who work behind the scenes at NASA as engineers and scientist.
“Many times when people think of NASA they just think of astronauts, but the astronauts might just be six people in space, but there’s 20,000 people that are supporting those six people between the engineers, food science, mission control, robotics, everything” she said.
Each teacher at LiftOff had to bring items representing their state. Busby wanted to represent Georgia, and in particular Hinesville, in a big way. Her gift bags included items from different businesses such as honey and body butter from the Savannah Bee Co.; pecans from Lane Southern Orchards; and Busby’s homemade car decals and body scrubs made from peaches.
The most important item came from Fort Stewart.
Busby asked her father, PJ Schneider, army retiree from Fort Stewart, if someone on the base could give her Fort Stewart pencils for the bags.
“He did me one better, he went to Warriors Walk,” she said. “They replace the flags when they start to get tattered on the soldiers memorial sites and they fold them, just like they would for the deceased’s family. He got me 55 of these flags to give the people and then a book that tells them every person (memorialized), where they can be found on Warrior’s Walk.”
Busby said it was a touching moment for many whose loved ones serve in the military and particularly for Houston science teacher Kelvin Bradford, who is retired military and served at Fort Stewart.
Anderson, who flew on the shuttle Atlantis, said in response to the flags, “Without the service of our brave veterans, I could never have done what I did. Because of their service, I was able to soar through the heavens.”
In July, Busby was invited back to Johnson Space Center with her SEEC crew for survival training in NASA’s Neutral Buoyance Laboratory pool.
“They taught us how to evade fallen aircraft, how to put on your life vest, get into a raft, which is very difficult to do,” Busby said. “And then after participating in the activity we returned to space center Houston and developed curriculum so they can use this program for other students and teachers in the future.”
Busby said NASA is developing a program called Space Center University, where the curriculum developed by her group will be taught to teachers and students.
One of NASA’s projects is sending people to Mars. Busby got to touch the Orion capsule, which will carry astronauts to Mars, and her group experimented with designing parachutes for landing on Mars.
“One of the problems when they go to Mars is safely landing and being able to walk away from the landsite. We created a parachute and inside was a robotic ball, a Spheros, which was put inside and programmed,” she said.
The robotic ball represented the astronaut or cargo. The object of the experiment was to safely parachute down, land and code the ball to roll out, symbolizing the person surviving the landing.
In February, Busby’s crew will present their lesson at a NASA conference for educators, based on their parachute experiment. Instead of a robotic ball, it will be marshmallows.
Busby believes it’s important for teachers to learn a lesson they can teach in their classrooms.
She encourages teachers to go on NASA’s website, which provides free curriculum, resources, videos, photos, movies and student worksheets.
Busby has been sharing her experiences and knowledge with others. She’s taught professional development courses for the Liberty County School System, also in Bryan County, Georgia Southern University and has received a request from Long County.
“A lot of students can’t go to NASA or to Florida for the Kennedy Space Center, but as educators we can bring that to them,” Busby said. “Everything I experience, my students experience through me.”
Her group’s mantra is “Dare mighty things” taken from a speech by President Theodore Roosevelt.
“We want our students to dare mighty things,” she said. “If you don’t try you’ll never know and if I never filled out that application I wouldn’t have had the most amazing seven months of my life. This is my 18th year teaching but I feel like that college girl excited and ready to take the stage and be a teacher for the first time.”
Busby said she loves teaching and wants students in Liberty to “think beyond Hinesville and think beyond Georgia and think beyond where they are right now.”
Out of her recent experience at NASA her favorite moment was sharing Fort Stewart with people from across the county.
“That just means a lot to me and it brings it back full circle,” she said.