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Michigan Virtual teacher receives NASA ‘Gold Star’ for Hubble Space Telescope project

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Michigan Virtual teacher Andrew Vanden Heuvel of Coopersville was one of 14 educators nationwide who claimed a “Gold Star” honor in the NASA-sponsored Top Stars contest, which invited U.S. formal and informal educators to submit their best examples of using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope in science, technology, engineering or mathematics education.

Andrew teaches astronomy online for Michigan Virtual and also at Grand River Preparatory High School in Kentwood, Mich. Andrew’s project required students to create a color image using the raw images produced by the Hubble Space Telescope.

As a former research astronomer, Andrew has a variety of unique experiences that he brings to his online classes. He is a physics and mathematics instructor with a master’s degree in astrophysics. Andrew has discovered five asteroids and an extra-solar planet, flown onboard a zero-gravity research plane and was recently considered a highly-qualified applicant for the 2009 astronaut selection cycle. Andrew is an Endeavor Science Teaching Fellow and NASA Solar System Educator.

“In the spring of 2009, we offered an elective astronomy course where students used real astronomical images to conduct original research projects,” Andrew said. “For their final exam, I asked the students to take raw images from the Hubble Space Telescope and use them to produce a beautiful color image like the ones they have seen from HST before. This final exam was an opportunity for students to create for themselves one of the most stunning images ever captured.”

The Top Stars contest was conducted by the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) in cooperation with the Space Telescope Science Institute. Submissions were accepted from individuals and from teams of up to four members and included any combination of text, graphics, video and photos.

Gold Star status was awarded to the best of the best — as judged by IGES and NASA scientists and educators — from the entries selected as “Top Stars” during the contest’s four rounds of competition. The Showcase section of the

Gold Star winners receive the following prizes (in addition to previously awarded Top Stars prizes):

  • An official letter of commendation from NASA;
  • An invitation to present their entry to other educators nationwide using the NASA Digital Learning Network;
  • A pair of IMAX movie tickets that can be used to see “Hubble 3D;” and
  • A “Hubble 3D” movie poster for classroom display.

Educators selected as Gold Stars also will be featured in articles on NASA’s website.

“All of our Gold Star and Top Star winners should be extremely proud of their work,” said Bonnie McClain, NASA Hubble education plan co-lead. “Educators and students around the world will benefit from their effective use of Hubble in high-quality education products and activities.”

About the Hubble Space Telescope

The thousands of stunning images captured by Hubble since its launch 20 years ago have made possible numerous breakthroughs in our understanding of the universe, and thanks to a recent servicing mission Hubble is expected to live on through at least 2014.

The thousands of stunning images captured by Hubble since its launch 20 years ago have made possible numerous breakthroughs in our understanding of the universe, and thanks to a recent servicing mission Hubble is expected to live on through at least 2014.

About Michigan Virtual

Michigan Virtual is a private, nonprofit Michigan corporation established by the State of Michigan in 1998 to serve as a champion for online learning. It is the parent organization of the Michigan Virtual for Students and Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute.

About IGES

Located in Arlington, Va., IGES was established in 1994 and is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization supported by public and private entities. IGES is a trusted leader in Earth and space science education, communication and outreach, and in fostering national and international cooperation in observing the Earth.

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About Michigan Virtual

Michigan Virtual™ (formally known as Michigan Virtual University®) provides online courses for Michigan students, professional development for educators and is the parent organization of the Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute®. As a nonprofit organization with more than 20 years of experience, Michigan Virtual is Michigan’s leading voice in online education. Visit us at michiganvirtual.org.

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