NASA Iowa Space Grant returns to Iowa State

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This summer, the NASA sponsored Iowa Space Grant Consortium (ISGC) returned to Iowa State. The ISGC, which is part of NASA’s National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program, was founded in 1990, establishing its first headquarters at Iowa State University. Iowa State, along with Drake University, the University of Iowa, and the University of Northern Iowa make up the administrative board and academic affiliates.

Working with the Iowa Space Grant Consortium since year two is Carmen Fuchs, who serves as program coordinator. Carmen has seen the ISGC grow from a brand new program to a consortium that offers lots of opportunities for students and researchers to get involved in aerospace as well as other STEM areas.

“Wallace Sanders was the original director. He was a civil engineering professor who had a lot of contacts in the aerospace industry,” Carmen said. “He got Iowa State to write the original grant. Our main office was in Town Engineering up on the fourth floor.”

In 2010, the ISGC grant was moved to UNI until this summer when the Space Grant returned to Iowa State where it currently resides in Howe Hall. With the close proximity of the aerospace engineering department, as well as the direction of Rich Wlezien, who serves as its chair, Iowa State makes a great control center for the ISGC.

Over her 24-year career with Space Grant, Carmen has enjoyed seeing students succeed and have their work recognized. A highlight for her came when students had their experiment (Iowa Joint Experiment in Microgravity Solidification) flown on the Space Shuttle Endeavour on STS-69 and performed successfully in space.

“Students at Iowa State and Iowa build this entirely enclosed experiment and delivered it to NASA.  Then NASA flew it on the shuttle and ran the experiment,” Carmen said. “So they actually got their metals melted in space on the shuttle, and had it returned.”

Carmen’s favorite aspect of working with the ISGC is watching the students grow, and seeing the impact Space Grant has on them as they start their careers.

“A lot of the alumni will write me saying having that hands-on experience with the Space Grant helped them get their jobs,” Carmen says. “It was the extra straw in their hat that other students didn’t have. Those hands-on, teambuilding experiences are really important.”

For more information about the Iowa Space Grant Consortium, please visit the newly redesigned website at www.iaspacegrant.org.