School of Education News

UW-Madison alumna set for research flight aboard NASA observatory

February 07, 2013
by Todd Finkelmeyer

UW-Madison alumna Connie Gartner is being given the unique opportunity to take part in a research flight aboard NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA).

Gartner photoGartner, who earned her Ph.D. from the School of Education’s Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis, is the Director of Instruction at the Wisconsin School for the Deaf in Delavan.

According to NASA, Gartner is one of 26 educators from across the country who are part of the Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors program.  They are partnering with professional astronomers using SOFIA -- a modified Boeing 747SP jetliner equipped with a 100-inch diameter telescope -- for scientific observations.

Gartner says she is scheduled to fly twice between Feb. 11-15 out of SOFIA’s base in Palmdale, Calif., which is located about 60 miles northeast of Los Angeles.

"My goal is to develop astronomy/astrophysics curricular materials for deaf and hard of hearing students (DHH) that can be shared not only with Wisconsin School for the Deaf students, but with DHH students across the state and in other states,” Gartner explains in an email.

NASA notes that the observatory enables the analysis of infrared light to study: the formation of stars and planets; chemistry of interstellar gases; composition of comets, asteroids, and planets; and supermassive black holes at the center of galaxies.

Gartner says that the Wisconsin School for the Deaf has been working closely with astronomers and educators at Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, Wis., providing training for teachers in astronomy topics.  They also are providing enriching experiences for DHH students in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields.

"I hope to provide DHH students with opportunities to pursue and experience astronomy in a way that will encourage them to pursue careers in the STEM areas,” says Gartner.

NASA reports that SOFIA's Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors program is a yearly professional development opportunity available to classroom and science center educators through a competitive, peer-reviewed application process.  SOFIA’s Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors program started in 2012 and is continuing this year.

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