Two WCSD Teachers Chosen to Become NASA Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors

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For Immediate Release
Contact: Victoria Campbell




Two WCSD Teachers Chosen to Become

NASA Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors



Reno, NV (March 14, 2019) – Two Washoe County School District (WCSD) teachers are among 28 teachers nationwide selected to participate in NASA’s Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors (AAA) program. This is a professional development opportunity for high school science teachers designed to improve science teaching and learning, and increase student engagement in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) studies.


Mickey Smith, who teaches chemistry and physical science at Wooster High School, and Aaron Shoolroy, who teaches physics at Reno High School, have been selected for the elite, week-long immersion program at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Palmdale, California. They will receive training in astrophysics and planetary science, and will participate in a research flight onboard NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA). The teachers chosen for the program represent eight states, and will be provided with lessons to present to their students at school.


SOFIA is a highly modified Boeing 747SP airliner that studies celestial objects at infrared wavelengths using a suite of seven cameras and spectrographs onboard the plane. The aircraft operates during 10-hour overnight science missions at altitudes between 39,000 and 45,000 feet, above more than 99 percent of the water vapor in Earth’s atmosphere that blocks infrared light from reaching ground-based observatories.


“Given the highly competitive nature of this program, we are immensely proud that Aaron and Mickey were chosen to represent Washoe County School District,” said Sylvia Scoggin, secondary science curriculum facilitator for WCSD. “Not only will students benefit from the experiences Aaron and Mickey bring back to the classroom, but science teachers across the district will benefit from the learning these dynamic teachers will undoubtedly share with their colleagues.”


“I am very excited to have been chosen to participate in the AAA program,” said Aaron Shoolroy. “I think that it is a fantastic opportunity to be a part of the practice of real-world science. I have long been a huge space nerd and the chance to actually experience what it is like to be a NASA scientist is really a dream come true. I can’t wait to share what I learn with my students and my colleagues next year.”


“I’m looking forward to passing the passion of asking the next question to my students, the question that seems to have no value,” said Mickey Smith. “Imagine how we would have stagnated if we didn’t ask the question that extends our knowledge to that next level; that level that appears to offer no value until we begin to find the answers.”


“NASA’s SOFIA observatory provides a fantastic opportunity for teachers to better understand and appreciate the research process by interacting with scientists and mission crew members,” said Dr. Dana Backman, AAA program principal investigator. “The teachers can then take what they learn back to their classrooms, schools, and school districts, conveying the value of scientific research and adding real-world content to high school learning envi¬ronments. The AAA’s first-hand experiences also can illuminate the wide variety of STEM career paths available to students.”


Media Availability


What: Visits to classrooms of WCSD teachers who have been selected to participate in NASA’s Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors program.


When: Friday, March 15

           9:30 a.m. to 10:20 a.m. – Aaron Shoolroy’s class at Reno High School

           10:40 a.m. to 1:50 p.m. – Mickey Smith’s class at Wooster High School


Where: Reno High School

            395 Booth St.



            Wooster High School

            1331 E. Plumb Lane



Who: Please go to the front office for directions to the classrooms. Mr. Shoolroy and Ms. Smith will be available for brief interviews, and students will also have media clearance.



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