Phoenix youngsters test science program
The Arizona Republic
Nov. 3, 2004

Betty Reid
Esmeralda Pichardo thought violent hurricanes moved pretty fast.

When the seventh-grader tracked an intense storm this month using math, she learned such storms move slowly and pack a mean punch.

The 12-year-old is one of 20 Isaac Elementary School District students who participated in the first e-Missions program delivered in Spanish in the United States. advertisement

The NASA-related program, set up in computer video-teleconferencing simulation, created emergency-response teams of Isaac students who helped evacuate residents of Montserrat, a Caribbean island, the target of a moving hurricane and the location of a volcano ready to erupt.

Students were linked to a mission-control center in Virginia, where Isaac students sent their recommendations for solving an environmental crisis. Isaac students were responsible for implementing evacuation plans for the 8,000 residents on the island using science and math skills.

"We multiplied the time and the speed of a hurricane as it moved every six minutes on a graph," Esmeralda said.

The interactive Challenger Learning Center e-Missions pilot project is offered by the Challenger Space Center in Peoria. Its benefits include the use of technology and digital content to teach math and science concepts to students.

Isaac students were selected to test the program in Spanish to see how well it worked before it is offered to bilingual classrooms nationwide.

All went well, said Abedón Fimbres, an Isaac spokesman.

"This experience provides an excellent opportunity for our students to expand their creativity and exercise their analytical problem-solving skills," said Isaac Superintendent Kent P. Scribner.

Sixth-grader Jania Featherstone kept an eye on a brewing volcano. She used a calculator and geography to find out exactly when a mountain would blow.

"It was pretty cool," 11-year-old Jania said.

Reach the reporter at or (602) 444-8049.