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Space Education Outreach with Sheyene Gerardi


Dr. Phil Metzger performing reduced gravity flight experiments

February 5, 2018 – Sheyene Gerardi is partnering with the Florida Space Institute (FSI) at the University of Central Florida to bring robotics education to South and Central American schools that serve underprivileged children. Sheyene is a Venezuelan actress and model, the founder of Sheyene School in Venezuela providing primary and secondary education, and the founder of Sheyene eHealth (https://www.sheyenegerardi.net/ehealth), an electronic healthcare information delivery network for rare diseases. Sheyene is working with FSI planetary scientist Dr. Phil Metzger who co-founded the NASA KSC Swamp Works (a space resources technology laboratory) and who develops technologies related to mining and manufacturing in space. The FSI team includes Dr. Pinilla-Alonso, a planetary scientist with vast expertise in the use of the most advanced technology for the exploration the Solar System that was recently recognized by the International Astronomical Union with the naming of asteroid (10689Pinillaalonso after her (https://www.clickorlando.com/news/space-news/asteroids-named-for-ucf-planetary-scientists-ucf-alumna). The team also includes Dr. Estela Fernandez-Valenzuela, an early career researcher at FSI who will contribute to the effort providing insights into the lessons learned from the exploration of the Solar System, where robotics will play a key role in the future.


The team is creating educational videos, a robotics curriculum, a series of robotics competitions, and a framework for citizen-led R&D in the field of space settlement technologies working through partnerships with existing business and schools in South and Central America.  The theme of this initiative is “Planetary Engineering”, a newly emerging field at the crossroads of aerospace engineering and planetary science as the mining of asteroids, the Moon and Mars, coupled with in-space manufacturing, promise to extend humanity’s reach beyond planet Earth. This promises to build excitement among students to excel in STEAM* education because it casts a grand vision for a future in which the students contribute. The project also aims to inspire young girls to pursue a STEM career by giving them the opportunity to put a name and a face to actual women researchers and to share their experience.  To be successful, the initiative must not only create educational opportunities but also a pipeline to real jobs and economic participation. The team believes because space industry has such growth potential, and because robotics is poised to revolutionize the economic landscape, it is vital to expand humanity’s participation to ensure a safe, healthy, and just planet. To establish a pipeline to jobs, the team focuses on hands-on robotics culminating in a college-level competition styled after NASA’s highly successful Robotic Mining Competition (NASA RMC). The goal is that South and Central Americas winners will be able to compete in a global robotics championship with the winners of NASA RMC and similar competitions now forming across the globe. Bringing South American students into the globally-connected community will create opportunities for employment, partnerships, and establishment of new businesses in their home communities.


*STEAM = Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math. The team embraces participation of artists (the A in STEAM), meaning the entire creative community, to communicate and interpret the vision of our future in space.


Sheyene Girardi during her recent visit to the Florida Space Institute accompanied by E. Fernández-Valenzuela and N. Pinilla-Alonso