ENGINEERS MOVE INTO COURTROOM TEACHER TRAINING FIRST ON GROUP'S AGENDA.
PALMDALE - A courtroom where civil cases were once heard is now home to an effort to advance science and technology education and research.
Settling into their new home in a portion of the former Palmdale courthouse, AERO Institute officials hope to begin conducting teacher training workshops before Christmas, and then branch out into distance learning courses and conferences.
``There have been no renovations to the building,'' said Susan Miller, director of the office of academic investments for NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, one of the consortium partners. ``We have taken something built for an entirely different purpose and are using it for education and research.''
AERO - short for Aerospace Education Research Operations - evolved out of concerns over the lack of engineering and technical training opportunities in the Antelope Valley.
The institute, formed about 18 months ago, is a partnership comprising NASA Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base; the California Space Grant Foundation, a California nonprofit corporation; the California Space Grant Consortium, part of the NASA-sponsored National Space Grant Foundation with more than 800 affiliate colleges and universities; NASA Ames Research Center; and the California Space Institute of the University of California.
The institute is working on programs aimed at inspiring kindergarten through high school students to pursue science, math and technical careers, as well as providing technical, undergraduate and graduate training.
The first uses of the center's new home will be the teacher workshops, aimed at providing them information to assist them with math and science education and to inform them on what resources are available to assist them.
``We hope to do one workshop a month,'' Miller said.
The institute eventually plans to conduct classes, including university-level courses, with teleconferencing technology at its new home.
The AERO Institute's new headquarters is also the new home of NASA Dryden's teacher resource center. The center had been located in Lancaster, but was relocated to Edwards two years ago because of budget cuts.
The center provides educational materials, such as posters, slides, and supplemental curriculum on aeronautics, science and math. The center, which serves Southern California and Arizona, receives about 25 requests a week, said Michelle Davis, a Dryden education specialist.
For now, the best way for teachers to access the center is through NASA's main Web site, nasa.gov, but it is hoped that the center will be able to accommodate walk-in requests starting in the summer.
``One of the purposes of being here is to be in the community,'' Davis said. ``We're thrilled to be at this location.''
Under an agreement with the city of Palmdale, the institute is leasing 5,800 square feet of the courthouse for $1 a year. The institute is responsible for its own maintenance and operations costs.
The courthouse, at the southwest corner of 9th Street East and Avenue Q-10, had been vacant since last year when Los Angeles County moved its civil court operations to the new Michael D. Antonovich Antelope Valley Courthouse in Lancaster.
City officials hope the institute will not only enhance technology education, but will lead to economic development with projects from the region's aerospace industry.
``This is an opportunity to bring partners together to see what kind of magic can occur,'' said Mayor Jim Ledford.
Jim Skeen, (661) 267-5743