NASA award seeks to encourage STEM study among minority youth

Texas State University

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has awarded Texas State University a $324,000 grant to help build the interest, skills and knowledge necessary for K-12 students to pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers.

The NASA Future Aerospace Engineers and Mathematicians Academy (FAMA) Central Texas Minority Youth is a two-year research project at Texas State with Araceli Ortiz, an associate research professor in the College of Education, serving as principal investigator. The grant is funded through NASA’s Minority University Research and Education Program Aerospace Academy (MAA).

Texas State’s program will provide integrated, year-round STEM programming to economically disadvantaged student populations. By leveraging NASA resources from aerospace themes, FAMA students will engage in informal and culturally relevant hands-on activities with clear learning goals. These STEM learning experiences will focus on integrated STEM content and practices that will lead to meaningful and authentic experiences for students, who will be guided by and mentored by experienced educators, STEM professionals and students.

The FAMA program will employ a four-pronged strategy to achieve its objectives:

  • FAMA STEM Saturdays and Summer Camps

The summer program will offer a no-cost, week-long camp for students from 4th to 8th grades. Saturday programs will be offered as a series of six sessions, each session featuring six hours of varying NASA themes and science content.

  • Teachers and Schools NASA Backpack program
    Participating teachers at elementary schools in each of the three school districts will rotate backpacks filled with STEM activities for the student to complete with family members. The purpose is to introduce NASA resources and activities, allowing for sharing of STEM home experiences in the classroom. Teachers in the three participating school districts will also receive focused professional development throughout the year.
  • Technology-rich Environments and Experiences
    Utilizing mobile technology equipment, the FAMA mobile technology labs will bring emerging technologies to underserved students in their community and schools addressing transportation barriers for participation in STEM learning activities.
  • Family Community Outreach
    Family/community outreach activities will invite families to become involved in their child’s education in a comfortable and familiar setting to strengthen STEM education.


Leveraging the LBJ Institute for STEM Education and Research’s experience as a previously-awarded MAA grant recipient, Ortiz’s team—including  Leslie Huling, educator professional development manager; Laura Rodriguez Amaya, project manager; and Angie Behnke, program coordinator—designed and enhanced the university’s existing FAMA program to build upon strong partnerships and extend the successful NASA-based program elements to additional high-needs communities and school districts. The FAMA Central Texas Minority Youth program is a partnership between Texas State and three regional school districts—San Marcos, Lockhart and Hays—that will provide integrated year-round STEM programming to economically disadvantaged student populations.

For additional information on NASA’s MAA awards, visit

            About Texas State University

Founded in 1899, Texas State University is among the largest universities in Texas with an enrollment of 38,694 students on campuses in San Marcos and Round Rock. Texas State’s 188,000-plus alumni are a powerful force in serving the economic workforce needs of Texas and throughout the world. Designated an Emerging Research University by the State of Texas, Texas State is classified under “Doctoral Universities: Higher Research Activity,” the second-highest designation for research institutions under the Carnegie classification system.

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