F.A.Q. for Rural K12 Schools

How can I send students to the Summer Research Internship Program?

We have limited space and encourage all interested applicants to apply by February 1. Our goal is to make it possible for every motivated budding scientist/researcher to have this unique opportunity.

How can I set up a Summer Excursion for my science class?

To visit Vanderbilt through an Aspirnaut™ summer excursion, your class or school or school district will have participated in at least one of our Beaming STEM labs during the school year. The excursion costs about $100 per student, including hotel for 2 nights and food during the visit.

What technology do I need to receive Beaming STEM Labs in my classroom?

You will need adequate high speed internet, a web-based videoconferencing platform (such as Skype, Google Hangout, etc.) and videoconferencing hardware (webcam, speakers, microphone,, monitor/computer, and screen to project Beaming STEM Lab sessions).

What are the advantages of Aspirnaut™ over other distance learning STEM programs?

1. University/K-12 Partnership: Aspirnaut™ partners the experiential and content expertise of university faculty, students, and staff with those of K-12 schools and teachers to impact STEM achievement. In this pilot the university is Vanderbilt University. The rationale for this model is that many K-12 teachers have limited training in STEM or are challenged to stay current in these rapidly-evolving fields. (Staying current is a significant challenge for university faculty!!) By partnering with a university, schools have direct access to STEM professionals, who are engaged daily in STEM fields.

2. Exposure of Students to STEM Professionals and Professions: “Beaming” provides unique real-time interaction between classes and university faculty, staff and students who are actively involved in STEM research and studies on a daily basis. Classes are led by STEM students and faculty who have a passion for hands-on inquiry-based activities and want to be engaged in elementary and middle schools STEM learning.

These STEM students and professionals are not only experts in the scientific material they are teaching but they also know firsthand the educational path, the rewards and the excitement of discovery. Thus, the Aspirnaut™ STEM program also introduces rural students to a variety of STEM careers and professionals.

3. “Beaming” Curriculum Matched to Teachers’ Plans: Teachers create a custom calendar from more than 90 labs from various STEM themes based on their state and local learning outcomes. New modules can be developed on request. Aspirnaut™ staff and STEM professionals are available as a resource to teachers.

4. K-20 Pipeline Program: Aspirnaut™ can truly connect students to opportunities through post-graduate training. We remain engaged in a long-term relationship with students, teachers, and schools to match talent with opportunity.

5. Mentorship: Individual career planning is a key part of the summer research internships for high school, undergraduate, and graduate students. Broader topics are covered for K-8 students.

6. Experience: Aspirnaut™ has now been conducting beaming of STEM labs for more than 7 years and brings experience and sustainability into partnerships with schools. Early pilot data suggests that there is an impact on individual student growth in science when students participate in Aspirnaut™ beaming labs.

What is the classroom teacher’s role in the program?

The classroom teacher is a pivotal partner and directs which units and labs will be included in the schedule. The classroom teacher is present for the “beaming” sessions and helps with safety, communication and supplies during the videoconference.

Aspirnaut™ makes every effort to minimize the preparation time for classroom teachers. Classroom teachers receive lessons plans and worksheets for students that can simply be printed each week so that the teacher may follow along with the lesson. Complete lab sets can be sent ahead or schools may acquire materials. The live “beaming” session is led by the Aspirnaut™ student or faculty member. Introductory and background material is covered by the Aspirnaut™ leader so the level of involvement for the classroom teacher may vary. Some teachers may prepare the students for concepts before the lesson and reinforce afterwards, but the lesson will also be effective as a stand-alone lesson.

Lessons are regularly reviewed for ease of facilitation and efficacy on both ends. Pilot data suggests that “beaming” has an impact on teacher professional development if they subsequently teach the lab.

How can teachers get their classes involved with AspirnautTM?

Classes may get involved with Aspirnaut™ through the support of their school or district. The institution will have the resources to fund the materials used for the STEM activities and should identify a teacher with the willingness to bring this supplemental activity-based STEM education to their classroom.

What costs are involved?

There are direct costs and indirect costs.

The direct costs include the cost of materials for the labs, shipping, and printing. These costs depend on the labs chosen and the total number of labs per year but cost an average of $2,500 per year for 25 STEM labs for up to 50 students. The supplies/labs, once purchased, could be used for additional groups of students at that school (including the following school year) for a very low replenishment cost. Prices range from $20 – 200 per lab for supplies for the entire classroom.

The indirect costs include space and logistical/admin support needed to make all of the above happen. These items include content creation, working with local teachers to match curriculum to content, recruiting and training of volunteers to lead the sessions, space, collection and analysis of outcome data, evaluation of the program, scheduling, kit construction, ordering of supplies, etc. Currently, these costs are supported by gifts and grants in this pilot phase of “beaming.”