High school students join NASA’s Mars distance learning panel

October 4, 2015


Cy-Fair High School students participate in the NASA Distance Learning Network (DLN) event, So You Want to Be a Martian, in the school library on Oct. 1. 

Oct. 4, 2015—Students from Cy-Fair and Cypress Woods high schools joined a live video chat with NASA experts and cast members of The Martian in the NASA Distance Learning Network (DLN) event, So You Want to Be a Martian, on Oct. 1.

NASA’s Kennedy Space Center conducted the education event as a way to help students understand fact versus fiction about living on Mars in preparation of humans’ first steps on the planet in the 2030s.

The curated panel discussion featured Bob Cabana, Kennedy Center director; NASA's planetary science director; a NASA astronaut; a NASA botanist and two stars from the movie The Martian. The event was streamed through the NASA DLN, allowing 133 middle and high schools including Cy-Fair and Cypress Woods to participate live.

Approximately 200 students from Cypress Woods’ astronomy, earth and space and advanced engineering classes attended the hourlong event in the school auditorium.

“This was a wonderful event, as the panel consisted of NASA directors, botanists, astronauts and actors,” said Terrie Schexnaider, Cypress Woods librarian. “We were even able to recognize our advanced engineering students who are currently working with NASA on projects at the conclusion.”


More than 200 Cypress Woods High School students attended the So You Want to Be a Martian Distance Learning Network event from astronomy, earth and space, engineering and theatre arts classes.

Cy-Fair librarian Jacque Hamilton invited her book club to participate, as they recently finished reading the novel The Martian.

“We planned to read it at the beginning of the school year, so this opportunity was a nice tie-in,” said Hamilton. “When we met on the 23rd, we had our discussion and they came up with their questions. We had to submit one question to NASA and then we could tweet questions throughout the broadcast.”

Using the #AskNASA hashtag, students submitted questions via Twitter for the NASA officials and actors to answer. Toward the end of the broadcast, Cy-Fair sophomore Emily Martinez’s tweet, “Do NASA astronauts really bring duct tape to space?,” was read and answered affirmatively by an astronaut.

“It was kind of a blur. I was excited,” Martinez said. “It’s awesome that we were able to get this opportunity to speak to people all over the nation.”

Hamilton joined in a celebratory reaction with the book club when the question was read.


Cy-Fair High School sophomore student Emily Martinez reacts to her #AskNASA tweet being read and answered live during the Distance Learning Network  event on Oct. 1. 

“They were getting a little disappointed as we saw the clock tick away and that our question may not be read. When they read that we all screamed,” she said. “It’s cool that an astronaut addressed that and mentioned ‘keeping it simple.’ In emergency situations, they do use duct tape.”

Hamilton said the interactive experience helped give her students a global perspective.

“The more global we are, the more our kids realize we’re all very similar,” she said. “It was cool for them to see schools around the nation and see that we’re all so much alike.”



Cy-Fair students who are part of the school book club were among the 133 schools selected to participate in the NASA Distance Learning Network event, which featured a panel consisting of NASA directors, botanists, astronauts and actors from the movie The Martian.

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