The Challenger Learning Center for Science & Technology, Woodstock,  was honored earlier this month for increasing its number of annual “flight” missions.

Cheryl Cox, lead programs teacher at the Woodstock’s Challenger Center, attended the Challenger National Conference Aug. 9 to 13, in San Antonio, Texas, and accepted the award on behalf of the staff. The national conference is held annually as a means to bring representatives from the 45 Challenger centers from throughout the country together to network and share information. 

Woodstock’s Challenger Center, 222 E. Church St., received the Certificate of Achievement award for increasing its total number of missions — simulated space missions for students — by at least 10 percent in 2014 over 2013. Rebecca Dolmon, lead flight director for Woodstock’s center, credited the increase in missions to a record 321 to the center’s reputation and publicity efforts. 

“I think we were able to increase missions by getting the word out about our programs on social media,” Dolmon said. 

Dolmon also said administrators at the Challenger Learning Center spent last year realigning the center’s curriculum and missions to coincide with the Next Generation Science Standards, also known as NGSS. 

 While at the conference, Cox toured the Challenger Learning Center in San Antonio, Texas, known as the Scobee Education Center, which is the newest center, equipped with state-of-the-art technology, Cox said.  

“It has all the latest and greatest technology,” Cox said. “The center has a new mission control design, new software and new physical environment upgrades. It was fantastic.” 

In addition to touring Scobee’s new facilities, Cox and the approximately 80 other Challenger attendees listened to keynote speakers Donald James, NASA’s associate administrator for education; Michael Barratt, a physician and NASA astronaut; and Eileen Collins, a retired NASA astronaut. 

Cox also met and took a “selfie” photograph with retired astronaut Mark Kelly, who is married to former Arizona congresswoman Gabby Gifford. Kelly, 51, is currently taking part in NASA’s first Twins Study, Cox said. His brother, Scott, is aboard the International Space Station and will spend one year in space, the longest period of time an American has spent in space, Cox said. Once he returns, scientists plan to study any differences between the brothers.


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