Boldly going

Originally published in MOREnetworking Vol. 2 No. 6, May 2006

Columbia School District’s Columbia Aeronautics and Space Administration (CASA) uses high and low tech to foster hands-on, interdisciplinary learning

Created in 1988 as an after-school activity, CASA has evolved into an extension of regular classes, providing students with opportunities for practical applications of concepts from textbooks and lectures.

Housed in the old Hickman High School auto shop building, CASA is a hands-on project in every way; students work in groups to complete upgrades of the program’s facilities, including a student-built replica of the International Space Station. Mentors from area businesses and the aerospace industry work with students to provide expertise and knowledge. Then each spring students from kindergarten to college converge upon the CASA facility on the space station for a six-day, five-night aerospace simulation. Some students serve as medical officers, scientists, and pilots on the space station. Others man Mission Control, and still others work in production, public affairs, or behind the scenes as “ninjas.”

“I learned quite a bit from the mission experience as well as my own personal studies during the class,” Hickman junior and first-year CASA student Galen Jackson said. “It was a nice change from the normal learning pattern and will stick with me longer because of the experience.”

“I love this program,” a second-year CASA student said. “It allows students to explore opportunities that normally aren’t available in regular technology classes.”

A space program, even a simulated one, requires cutting-edge communications technology to succeed, and the Missouri Research and Education Network (MOREnet) assisted CASA with video streaming and mentored student participants in operating and managing videoconferencing.

CASA participants videoconferenced with the Johnson Space Flight Center in Houston, the University of Missouri–Rolla and a number of other institutions during the simulation. Another highlight included a videoconference with Missouri Governor Matt Blunt.

The 2006 simulation marked the first year that CASA streamed both video and audio, according to Hickman teacher Fred Thompson, who oversees the CASA program.

“MOREnet provided outstanding support in helping us get out over the Internet. Johnson Space Center watched. People around the globe watched,” Thompson said. “To be able to bring NASA people in on a conversation students are having about orbital physics is mind boggling. To be able to bring those resources into a classroom means we’ve opened a window that allows us to talk to almost anyone anywhere.”

For more information about the CASA program, visit

hendersonl | Monday, May 1, 2006 | |


Copyright © 2007 The Curators of the University of Missouri. All rights reserved. DMCA and other copyright information.