Montana Space Odyssey

PI: Kimberly K. Obbink, Burns Telecommunications Center, Montana State University

[1999-2003] The Montana Space Odyssey program is designed to unify the diverse aerospace resources available in the state, focus the attention of Montana's youth on mankind's future in space and help clarify their role in that quest. Montana Space Odyssey will stimulate interest in space by appealing to the imagination, creativity and problem-solving skills of its participants and then focus those skills on challenging real-world projects and problems culled from current research activities in space science and engineering.

Several precollege camps exist in Montana, but none of them fully utilize the wealth of space science resources available in the state. The Montana Space Odyssey experience will be unique in its design and execution. The twenty Space Odyssey participants will be immersed in the aerospace sciences through direct interaction with scientists and engineers doing research in the field as well as through hands-on aerospace activities designed to stimulate creative problem solving skills and imaginative speculation concerning the future of space exploration. From the Taylor Planetarium at the Museum of the Rockies to the many space-related research projects on the MSU campus, Montana Space Odyssey participants will be exposed to intellectually challenging experiences distinctly different from the textbook materials and exercises which characterize traditional space science curricula.

Montana's large size and sparse population often isolates its youth from opportunities to interact with science role models and effectively prevents them from becoming involved in the process of "doing science." Indeed, many traditional science enrichment programs are only available to students living in the more populated areas or to those who have the financial resources and the adult encouragement to attend special summer programs. Special opportunities must be created which enable Montana's youth to overcome these obstacles. MSU Extended Studies has offered a summer camp called Peaks and Potentials for over ten years. This camp provides students with enrichment minicourses along with a residential college experience. Although Peaks provides opportunities for students interested in science, it is limited to those who can afford to pay and often fills quickly with camp "junkies" who are looking for creative ways to "vacation" during the summer. In an attempt to address the needs of a more academically minded population, The Montana Space Odyssey will enable high ability/high potential students in math and science to attend a summer science experience on campus. The camp will be followed by computer network activities linking campers to peers and faculty to provide continued support for their interest in science. This program will identify students under-represented in science, particularly American Indians and girls, and will provide them with a meaningful and long-lasting experience.

[1996] Montana Space Odyssey is a 12-month project which features a two-week summer camp experience augmented with extensive online communication during the school year. The summer camp consists of a series of collaborative activities and field experiences related to space science. It is both preceded and followed by online computer-network interactions designed to connect participants in their home or local school settings with each other and with university personnel - scientists, engineers, and project staff. This innovative use of computer conferencing will enable the development of an electronic space studies "club" accessible by junior high school students [and teachers] anywhere in the region. From inquiry-based learning to scientific research, the camp will be a creative, challenging and fun outlet for students interested in space science which, because of its unique nature, will expand and enhance - not duplicate - material from traditional space science curricula. This effort will be enhanced by the numerous off-campus and online activities which will encourage Montana Space Odyssey campers to share information and discoveries with their teachers and fellow students and further increase the program's sphere of influence. The project is similar to three successful NSF Young Scholars Programs (YSP) that have been conducted during the past seven years at Montana State University-Bozeman. Like the YSP, this program is designed to provide pre-college students with hands-on involvement in science and engineering and the opportunity to interact with research scientists active in the aerospace field.

Contact Information

Mail: Kimberly K. Obbink E-mail:
Burns Telecommunications Center Phone: (406) 994-6550
Montana State University FAX: (406) 994-7856
Bozeman, MT 59717-3860 Website: BTC's Space Odyssey


MSGC Montana Space Grant Home

Updated June 19, 2006