The Nautilus Project

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The Nautilus Project

A photograph of Clifford Gerstman and Susan Groff in front of the SOFIA plane.

A photograph of Clifford Gerstman and Susan Groff in front of the SOFIA plane.

NASA/SOFIA

A photograph of Clifford Gerstman and Susan Groff in front of the SOFIA plane.

NASA/SOFIA

NASA/SOFIA

A photograph of Clifford Gerstman and Susan Groff in front of the SOFIA plane.

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More often than not, students forget that Middle College High School is not only full of students, but also full of extremely qualified teachers as well. The teachers here have experienced zero-gravity, worked with NASA, are musicians, run to support noble causes, and shape young minds. In other words, it is self-evident that the teachers of Middle College High School go above and beyond their requirements as a teacher at school and their academic pursuits.

Sophomore Marielena Mendoza says, “I feel like these teachers give individual attention, because there are so little of us. With that alone it helps us achieve higher accomplishments. For example, Mrs. Peterson gives tough love. She checks up on students and is not afraid to give a phone call home.”

Freshman Nicholas Ramirez says, “Mrs. Silverstein has drama club in her room, and there’s Mrs. Storms with her tutoring. Everybody is getting you ready for the real world with their clubs and tutoring.”

Recently, it was discovered that Middle College High School’s Ms. Groff will be partaking in the Nautilus Project as a Science Communication Fellow for Ocean Exploration Trust. Through the Ocean Exploration Trust, Ms. Groff and her group will be exploring hydrothermal vents at Gorda Ridge with NASA SUBSEA scientists aboard the Nautilus. This expedition is one of 10 and will take place from May 24th to June 9th.

Sophomore Marielena Mendoza says, “I think it is admirable that she (Ms.Groff) goes out of her way to explore her interests even though she has accomplished so much.”

The Nautilus project isn’t only for teachers and adults. Students can participate in discoveries alongside the Nautilus. However, the Ocean Exploration Trust isn’t just limited to Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM), but rather it also includes art, research and creative writing projects. Although each expedition has a specific focus, students get the choice to follow whichever one. These resources are free, and students can follow the expeditions May to October.

Freshman Nicholas Ramirez says, “It is cool that teachers here are also giving many opportunities that are outside the school curriculum. It really helps interested students learn about things like careers they might want to pursue.”

The activities students can do include several things such as graphics, animation, expedition videos, and modules. Although students can’t access the modules yet, students can begin to register. Moreover, if students want to firsthand experience the expedition, the Ocean Exploration Trust offer a science and engineering internship program.

This isn’t the first time Ms. Groff will be working with NASA. Both Ms. Groff and Mr. Gerstman, worked with NASA back in 2013 on Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA). According to the SOFIA website, “SOFIA is the largest airborne observatory in the world, capable of making observations that are impossible for even the largest and highest ground-based telescopes.” SOFIA is a partnership between NASA and the German Aerospace Center.

When asked about SOFIA, Ms.Groff says, “SOFIA is a modified aircraft with a telescope that flies high into the stratosphere, above the clouds. The water vapor interferes with the capture of clear images, and the telescope has a better view in the stratosphere. We do not experience weightlessness. However, we had an opportunity to interact with scientists and astronomers researching their respective projects. Mr. Gerstman experienced weightlessness aboard a different aircraft that was used for training astronauts. However, we had an opportunity to interact with scientists and astronomers researching their respective projects. It was a fascinating experience!”

Groff also added regarding the Nautilus Project, “I am looking forward to exploring hydrothermal vents and learning more about chemosynthesis and its relationship to evolution. Please join us online on the expedition!”