NMSU program finalist for national award

By Austin Craig

The Southern New Mexico Science, Engineering, Mathematics and Aerospace Academy (SNM SEMAA), has been selected as a finalist for the Innovations in American Government Award presented by the Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation.

SNM SEMAA is a collaboration of NASA, New Mexico State University Colleges of Education and Engineering, Gadsden Independent School District, Las Cruces Public Schools, parents and volunteers and is designed to encourage normally underrepresented students in grades K-12 into the fields of science, engineering, mathematics and technology through hands-on inquiry-based science activities.

The award is aimed at recognizing and promoting excellence in the public sector and providing evidence that government can work to improve the quality of life for citizens. SNM SEMAA is one of 18 finalists from more than 1,000 applicants. Selection criteria for the award include novelty, effectiveness, significance and transferability of the program.

The top seven finalists will receive $100,000, be featured in a video to promote the award and join a cadre to help develop programs in other countries. The announcement of winners is expected soon.

Institutions are required to submit approximately 20 page applications, which are reviewed by award officials. Experts select the top 50 applicants and after finalists are selected, site visits are conducted to evaluate the remaining programs. The finalists then send a representative to make a presentation before the Innovations National Selection Committee.

Susan Brown, director and presenter for SNM SEMAA, believes there are several reasons SNM SEMAA deserves the award.

“This is a phenomenal inquiry-based program,” Brown said. “We have the Aerospace Education Lab (AEL) in the College of Engineering with virtual reality, a wind tunnel, a flight simulator and robotics that allow kids to see math and science in action. We have family festivals that get the parents involved and our teachers are provided professional development and stay year after year.”

SNM SEMAA changes their curriculum each year and program topics have included robotics, astronomy and global positioning systems. Students also participate in events such as the International Science Fair and the X-Prize Competition.

The Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation is part of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. The Innovations in American Government Award has been given since 1986.

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