Smith student, Arnold teacher chosen as 2017 JASON Argonauts

April 16, 2017

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Smith Middle School eighth-grade student Smitha Bhagavatula hugs Principal Susan Higgins after she was announced as a JASON Student Argonaut on April 12.

April 16, 2017—Smith Middle School eighth-grade student Smitha Bhagavatula and Arnold Middle School science campus content instructional specialist Tiffany Schmidtendorff were notified on April 12 of their selection as Student and Educator Argonauts who will take part in a scientific expedition this summer through JASON Learning.

JASON Learning, the world-renowned science education organization, chose a select group of Argonauts to join the weeklong expedition to the Cape Eleuthera Institute on the island of Eleuthera in The Bahamas July 13-20. Through a sponsorship from Chevron, they will participate in an intensive hands-on research experience with resident and visiting scientists engaged in a diversity of marine science projects.

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Tiffany Schmidtendorff, Arnold Middle School science CCIS and 2017 JASON Educator Argonaut, meets Student Argonaut Smitha Bhagavatula at Smith Middle School on April 12.

Twenty-two of the 2017 Argonaut team spots were reserved for students and educators from the Houston region—including one student and teacher from CFISD. District representatives were asked to apply in January, with applications due in February.

Debra Hill, coordinator of secondary science, visited both Smith and Arnold on April 12 with a congratulatory team including Dr. Linda Macias, associate superintendent of curriculum and instruction and accountability; and Tom Jackson, Board of Trustees member.

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Tiffany Schmidtendorff, Arnold Middle School science CCIS, reacts after being surprised as the 2017 JASON Educator Argonaut at Arnold on April 12.

Schmidtendorff’s husband, Adam, the science CCIS at Smith Middle School, attended the 2015 Argonaut program as a teacher at Arnold.

“I was very jealous of his experience,” she said. “The things he got to do are all my background. His background is geology, mine is neuroscience and biology. There’s not a better job than working with kids and feeling that fulfillment of letting them reach their dreams and set goals and helping them to explore science. I do love the idea of being able to apply things to your job and to share it with kids.”

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District staff congratulate Arnold science CCIS Tiffany Schmidtendorff after she was announced as a JASON Educator Argonaut on April 12. Pictured, from left, are Jodi Matteson, Arnold principal; Adam Schmidtendorff, Smith Middle School science CCIS; Tiffany Schmidtendorff; Debra Hill, coordinator of secondary science; and Tom Jackson, CFISD Board member.

Bhagavatula, who wants to explore a career in biomedical engineering, said she looks forward to researching sea creatures in The Bahamas.

“Many of the biomedical devices these days such as soft robots are based off of sea creatures like octopi and squids with how soft and flexible they are and can get into tight spaces,” she said. “If I could go and do research about these animals, maybe I could get more information about the career I want to take.”

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School and district staff congratulate Smith Middle School eighth-grade student Smitha Bhagavatula on being named a 2017 JASON Student Argonaut on April 12. Pictured, from left, are Debra Hill, coordinator of secondary science; Adam Schmidtendorff, Smith science CCIS; Smitha Bhagavatula; Susan Higgins, Smith principal; Alissa Stolz, Smith science teacher; Dr. Linda Macias, associate superintendent of curriculum and instruction and accountability; and Tom Jackson, CFISD Board member.

Schmidtendorff attended the surprise ceremony for Bhagavatula to introduce herself to her future Argonaut colleague.

“Kids have a totally different perspective than you,” she said. “If they’re comfortable with you they’ll ask you anything, and you can see things through a different lens. I look forward to really living it and experiencing it with her, not just as the presenter but as an Argonaut getting to experience everything they do.”

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Arnold Middle School and district staff surprise science CCIS Tiffany Schmidtendorff with the news that she will be a 2017 JASON Educator Argonaut on April 12. 

The JASON Project connects students to real science and exploration to inspire and motivate them to pursue careers in the STEM fields. The curriculum was unveiled in CFISD beginning in 2013-2014, the result of a nearly $250,000 grant from Chevron.

More information on the JASON Argonaut program is available online.

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