Lucio, 22, knew little about NASA.
knew vaguely that it was a place that helped in space discoveries
and exploration. But after spending 10 weeks at NASA's Goddard Space
Flight Center in Greenbelt doing research and experiments, Lucio
knew a lot more.
recently presented her final report on how satellites are used to
decide where to send rescue workers after such natural disasters
as earthquakes or tornadoes.
was one of six Native Americans -- five college students and a professor
-- chosen from tribal colleges in North Dakota to participate in
a summer program at Goddard. The program's goal is to interest more
Native Americans in science-related careers, said Wanda David, the
program manager at Goddard for the Native American program.
didn't know much about NASA, and I just learned so much," said
Lucio, who is a Hidatsa Indian and goes to Fort Berthold Community
College in New Town, N.D.
are several other programs at NASA designed for minorities, but
educators, administrators and scientists wanted to see more Indians
in science fields. They worked with an association that represents
tribal colleges in North Dakota to hold a "NASA Awareness Day"
in April 2002 to show students from elementary school through college
what the center does.
has its vision to inspire the next generation," David said.
"We want to include everyone. We have a very small portion
of Native Americans in this area, and we're not located near a reservation.
Our emphasis was to extend ourselves to tribal colleges.
had to be very proactive in recruiting Natives to come here,"
she said. "There's a great underrepresentation of minorities
in the areas of the sciences."
estimated 150 Native Americans work at NASA's centers across the
country. At NASA's Goddard Center, there are eight.
administrators said one approach they are using to encourage more
Native American students to consider careers in science is to market
the participation of the first Native American in a NASA space shuttle
program. In November, John Bennett Herrington, who is of the Chickasaw
Nation of Oklahoma, flew on a mission to the International Space
is an excellent time to stimulate Native students in the areas of
math and science," David said. To further that goal, NASA has
given some tribal schools and organizations on reservations math
and science materials to use.
summer's group of Goddard interns was the second, and larger than
the first. Last year, Goddard Center had a pilot program with students
from Oglala Lakota College in Kyle, S.D. In addition, five students
from Salish Kootenai College in Pablo, Mont., have come for a three-week
internship in earth science.
six from North Dakota studied physical and environmental sciences,
computers and mechanical engineering, among other subjects. NASA
paid the rent for a College Park apartment and gave each student
a $4,000 stipend. Some of the students will also get credit from
projects spanned everything from studying how medical decisions
are made from afar to looking at . . . Asian dust from space,"
said Nancy Maynard, associate director for environment and health
at Goddard who also served as a mentor to some of the students.
had Native students studying reindeer husbandry in Russia using
satellites, and another looking at how to control West Nile virus,"
Stonefish, 25, a sophomore at Sitting Bull College in Fort Yates,
N.D., said he was a bit nervous just before his final presentation
to his friends, mentor and teachers at NASA. His subject was the
use of "indigenous knowledge to improve reindeer husbandry
in Scandinavia and northwest Russia."
said he used a map and satellites to plot migration patterns of
reindeer in remote regions of Russia where the animals are the main
source of income for people. "There's a lot of environmental
and government issues affecting their livelihood," Stonefish
said. "I looked at the vegetation of the area, and when you
combine that with where plants show up as being under stress, you
find that the herders can move the nomadic deer to different areas."
concluded that herders could minimize their areas of walking and
redirect the animals to better grazing areas. With satellite images,
he could compare his findings with notes from herders on the ground
to see if they were accurate.
LaFountaine, a 20-year-old Chippewa Indian who attends Turtle Mountain
Community College in Belcourt, N.D., tracked the West Nile virus
in an area of Pennsylvania using satellites and other sensory images
to measure rainfall levels and find where mosquitoes might breed.
"Then you can go and spray where they are and eradicate the
mosquitoes, and then control the West Nile," LaFountaine said.
can't spray the entire state because they don't have the resources
or the manpower," he said. "This makes it more effective."
He said he learned how to do research that he "had never done."
organizers said they plan to keep in touch with the students and
help them pursue their research back at their respective colleges.
said she wants to use some of the same tracking devices she used
at NASA to help people at her reservation get better health care.
For instance, she said, doctors might be able to monitor from afar
how patients are doing on various medicines. The nearest hospital,
she said, is 100 miles away in Minot, and often people don't get
there in time for major emergencies.
really like to see how some of this technology can be used at my
reservation to help people get better care," Lucio said.