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Indiana Students See Signatures Blast into Space with Help from WJU

Fri Nov 9 2007

A group of Indiana elementary school students were able to see their signatures head into space aboard space shuttle Discovery thanks to the Center for Educational Technologies®.

Students at Ridge View Elementary School in Hobart, IN, had taken part in NASA and Lockheed Martin's Student Signatures in Space program. Fifth grade students, teachers, and staff signed a poster in May that later was digitized and carried aboard Discovery during its launch Oct. 23. The School City of Hobart district did not have a cable television connection in all of its classrooms to access the mission via NASA-TV, so classrooms would have to access NASA-TV's Internet feed. However, technical personnel at Hobart feared the heavy online traffic at the schools would crash the district's computer server. They contacted NASA for help.

NASA eventually directed Hobart's information technology officer to Don Watson, manager of Video Support Services at the Center for Educational Technologies, which plays an integral role with NASA-TV, providing support for Internet streaming of shuttle missions as well as organizing NASA's educational programming schedule. Watson along with Ron Magers and Chris Kreger of the center arranged for a dedicated stream to the district's media server for both the launch and the rest of the shuttle mission to the International Space Station. That allowed the stream to be accessed from any classroom without interfering with the district's normal bandwidth.

Ultimately six sites in the Hobart district watched not only the shuttle's launch, but other parts of the mission. More than 1,800 students and teachers were able to tune in.

The students were most appreciative.

"We got to see the whole world," fifth-grader John Maynard said of watching the liftoff of Discovery.

The students weren't the only ones who valued the access.

"I had a few teachers call me and ask what happened when I shut the stream down," said Steve Sumichrast, information technology officer for the School City of Hobart. “I guess they really enjoyed it.”

The Times of Northwest Indiana contributed to this report.