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APPLE VALLEY SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY CENTER
CONNECTS WITH THE UNIVERSE

  The Apple Valley Science and Technology Center (STC) sits
  in California's heart, along Route 15 running between
  LA and Las Vegas. Yet, in a very real sense, STC is
  not confined to one physical location. It stretches across
  the nation, due to the magic of Novell networks
  and the Internet.
  
  STC was conceptualized in 1985, when Rick Piercy
  had been with his school district for 3-4 years
  as a kindergarten teacher. "I was involved in the Young
  Astronauts program," he explains. "We were doing
  astronomy programs outside, kids were getting turned
  on, but it was simply freezing. What we needed was
  a place to get inside and stay warm."
  
  When Piercy began a fund drive to raise the necessary
  money, people began to pitch in. Kids ran jogathons
  and sold posters. Corporations offered funds and
  equipment. Community members donated money. Contractors
  volunteered their personal services. (STC's architect,
  for example, offered what amounted to $45,000 in
  material and labor.) Eventually, $1.2 million was
  raised to build an elementary campus, and a federal
  grant provided an additional $850,000.
  
  In 1990, STC held its official grand opening. Since
  that time, it has made national broadcasts, was chosen
  as a regional resource center by the FAA and as one of
  two sites for the Telescopes in Education (TIE) program,
  and has become the Instructional Technology
  Development Consortium (ITDC) training site
  for San Bernardino County.
  
  STC's success still surprises Piercy, who now acts
  as Director and Chief Operations Officer, overseeing
  the administration of STC and its new school, the
  Academy of Academic Excellence. "If anyone had ever
  told us we'd be where we are now, we wouldn't have
  believed it. It might have even been intimidating.
  STC just started out as a place for students to get
  out of the weather and observe the heavens.
  
  "More idealistically, though, we also wanted to give
  kids a chance to start young with science, so that it
  was never put down to them. Many kids get turned off
  by science -- they read books on science, they answer
  questions about science, but they never actually get
  to DO science. By the time they reach a lab, they've
  already developed a phobia of science. Our goal was to
  let kids enjoy hands-on science from the start,
  to show them how it applies to life. That's what
  really started everything moving. Although
  the program was originally conceived for just one
  school, it really took off."
  
  Jim Roller, Director of the Science and Technology
  Center, agrees. "Our whole concept has
  been hands-on science," he explains, "really getting
  down and doing science in the classroom. We're looking
  forward to the way that technology will allow us
  to affect many more people than could normally pass
  through here. We should be able to have tens,
  hundreds, thousands of kids through STC in a year,
  via technology and the Internet, and still be
  offering them hands-on science."
  
  The 8000-square-foot center now contains a full
  observatory, similar in quality to that of a major
  university, as well as a jet flight simulator.
  It offers all sorts of science and math programs
  for children, as well as outreach efforts.
  
  All of these opportunities are not wasted on the
  students. "We probably have the least amount of
  vandalism of schools in our valley," notes Piercy,
  "because STC is their place. They come from all over.
  Our charter school reaches out to home-schooled
  students all over southern California, but we have
  kids who come from as far away as San Diego
  and Los Angeles." Last year STC served 17,000
  students. This year marked its first as a charter
  school, with 360 students, in addition to the normal
  thousands of visitors it receives every year.
  
  What makes the STC network run? NetWare 4.11, on a
  Compaq 4500, acting as the network's backbone. Although
  STC's Web server is currently based on Windows NT
  running on a Compaq 800, STC anticipates a shift to
  NetWare as soon as the 18-year-old Webmaster becomes
  more comfortable with Novell.
  
  "What's good about Novell on the 4500," says Roller,
  "is that it interacts with all the computers on site,
  as well as the computer that controls the telescope
  over at Goldstone. We just recently picked up
  BorderManager, which will help us to broadcast
  (i.e., present as read-only) the images from the
  telescope. While one group of students is logging
  in and controlling it from somewhere like Kansas,
  multitudes of other students can come across Netscape
  to our Web site and pick up what's going on."
  
  One year ago, STC took over operations of Goldstone's
  $12 million radio telescope -- a deep-space tracking
  antenna -- all 111 feet and 3 million pounds of it.
  The telescope is used as part of a WWW site for radio
  astronomy for K-12 education, in conjunction with
  NASA and JPL. Teachers are trained at STC, plan
  missions back at their schools, come through STC
  to carry out the mission, and gather information
  on their target. The data they receive becomes part
  of the scientific data used by NASA.
  
  In fact, with the recent study of Jupiter and the
  probe Galileo's surveillance, students will be
  cowriting articles with NASA to be published in such
  magazines as Sky & Telescope, Astronomy, and NASA's
  own publication. "Kids will finally see the real
  results of their experiment," says Roller, "with
  the contact of real scientists."
  
  Similarly, scientists for JPL are excited over being
  able to expose kids to new experiences. "We have students
  in Los Angeles or New York City who can't see stars at
  night due to pollution, yet have nearby equipment,"
  explains Piercy. "Then we have students in the Arkansas
  back country who have no local resources but have clear
  skies. Networking technology allows us to overcome
  these things: Students in remote areas and students
  without clear skies can still explore space, all without
  leaving their classrooms. This isn't just a great
  experience, but also a very economical way to drive
  the education system in a new direction."
  
  Besides the telescope, some schools have been testing
  electronic microscopes. While scientists manipulate
  the equipment, students can view the images via Internet,
  make comments, and help guide what gets viewed. This
  combines the idea of remote-controlled scientific
  devices with the ability to share information directly
  and quickly with large groups nationwide. "We're going
  to see more opportunity for parents to interact with
  their children," adds Piercy, "as well as teachers
  interacting with large groups of students, themselves
  interacting with others. Technology can drive this
  unified effort."
  
  In fact, Piercy sees hands-on science as the ultimate
  social bonding experience. "Just as the government can't
  legislate or dictate morality, neither can it stop
  segregation or force reconciliation between groups.
  But technology can do that, as students from very
  diverse backgrounds collaborate and meet each other
  on common ground. I think that this is the way
  to bring cultural differences together -- that working
  on these projects will strengthen cultural ties
  among children more than many of the past
  programs we've seen. 
  
  "There's a school in downtown Detroit --
  99% African-American -- in a ghetto area. It's a neat
  school to collaborate with. This school recently worked
  with two of our middle schools. The students here
  got a real taste for the lives of the kids in Detroit,
  and they got a feel for our lives. In the end, everyone
  found out that they had a lot more common ground
  than differences."
  
  Another object of interest -- STC's flight simulator --
  is a T-40, with a full cockpit and up-down range of
  movement. Students begin learning how to fly in
  third grade, beginning with models and flying knowledge
  and moving on to computer simulation before the real
  event. Students have to learn language, history skills,
  geography, and how to calculate fuel consumption.
  There's quite a bit of math involved. All this adds
  up to a great tool, in Piercy's words: "It gets kids
  hands-on experience and practical application of science."
  
  The simulator's acquisition is mostly miraculous,
  although Piercy humorously attributes it to naivete
  on his part: "As a kindergarten teacher, I didn't think
  that people could turn you down. So one day, I just
  called up the Pentagon and asked them for a flight
  simulator. And look, we got one!" Recently, Piercy
  and Roller were talking to people in Washington
  and said, "Oh, we'd really like to get on the Hubble."
  Everyone laughed, but then one fellow said, "You know,
  that might not be out of the question." The moral here,
  it seems, is that you never lose anything by asking,
  and sometimes you get what you want.
  
  To helping incorporate hands-on learning in the
  classroom, STC is currently developing its own
  year-long classroom curriculum, to be centered around
  space and technology and driven from a CD-ROM.
  This curriculum will implement standard STC
  hands-on experiences and real data collection,
  such as getting on the Goldstone telescope.
  
  STC receives a lot of support from its Novell dealer,
  Goldmac, who is also helping them implement Novell
  BorderManager. "Our partnerships, such as with Novell
  and Compaq, are what makes this whole thing work,"
  says Piercy. "We can talk all we want about our
  vision, but if you can't do it in real time, then it's
  still just a vision. We need people to help us network
  and link with the rest of the world so that we
  can do the things we do."
  
  Roller agrees wholeheartedly. "If that doesn't happen,
  we're limited to just our building. Although Apple
  donated some computers years ago, and although we
  had a local AppleTalk network, that didn't provide us
  with what we now need to have kids do science across
  the Internet. We need a system like Novell's to put
  all the pieces together -- to get all the machines
  to talk and get out to all the users. Having students
  with read-only access to the telescope, so that they
  can watch what another class is doing, is a tremendous
  thing that I wouldn't know how to accomplish
  without BorderManager. Novell has given us the
  ability to reach out to more students."
  
  While other similar student science programs do exist,
  STC isn't aware of any that allow the students
  real hands-on experience. Even with KidSat, which
  allows children to propose particular pictures to be
  taken by space shuttle crews, students can't do anything
  but wait for the data to come back. At STC, students
  collect their own data. Understandably, NASA and JLA
  have given their full support. "It's the real
  important link of putting instruments into the
  hands of the kids," says Roller.
  
  And the fact that universities must agree to partner
  with elementary or middle-school classes before using
  the telescope helps kids link with colleges, which
  provides some much-needed motivation to students
  who have no clue what they'd like to do as adults.
  "Instead of graduating and wondering, 'What in the
  world am I going to do?' these kids have already been
  in touch with universities, they've actually worked
  with students, scientists, and professors. They're
  now on their way."
  
  The list of organizations working with the STC seems
  endless. GTE supplies the phone lines. Allied Signal
  takes care of the equipment. JPL has 26 engineers
  working on a part-time basis with the STC and
  evaluates its new project propositions. NASA
  remains in close touch.
  
  And Novell provides the core network that runs
  the systems and makes long-distance remote-control
  possible, allowing kids to bond via hands-on science.
  
  "The technology is what allows this to happen,"
  Roller finishes. "Without Novell letting us network
  all this stuff, we'd be dead in the water."

  
The Apple Valley Science and Technology Center's Web
site is located at www.avstc.org.

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(C) 1997 by Fed Services, Inc.
Electronic Government, Novell Education Market Issue.

Material to be used solely in regards to examining
my credentials for employment.