NASA has assisted in recycling an old space communications and tracking antenna into a radio telescope for the use of students and teachers around the nation. The telescope is controlled through a new NASA-supported facility to improve and expand science and technology education which was dedicated in Southern California's Apple Valley today.

The Apple Valley Science and Technology Center, renamed the Lewis Center for Education Research in honor of supporter U.S. Representative Jerry Lewis, features an innovative Internet-linked system that allows students across the country to remotely control the resurrected NASA space communications antenna to conduct radio astronomy experiments.

Among those scheduled to participate in the ceremonies today were Mrs. Gayle Wilson, wife of Governor Pete Wilson of California; NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin; NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) Director Dr. Edward C. Stone; retired NASA astronaut Dick Covey; and Congressman Jerry Lewis.

Staffed by a small professional staff and hundreds of volunteers, the Lewis Center for Education Research is a hub of learning for students of all ages interested in meteorology, astronomy, environmental studies and aviation, among many other subjects.

In 1996, the center took over operation of a nine-story-high tracking antenna within the Goldstone site of NASA's Deep Space Network, near Barstow, CA. Instead of tearing down the decommissioned antenna, JPL entered into an agreement allowing the center and the school district to operate the antenna as a radio telescope for use via the Internet by students from around the United States. NASA and JPL staff and volunteers participated in converting the antenna into a radio telescope and linking its control system to classrooms via the Internet.

Goldin, Lewis, Stone and Wilson were scheduled to staff the center's mission control today to join students in Michigan and Kentucky as they operated the giant radio telescope from their classrooms.

The original Science and Technology Center facility, built nearly 10 years ago, now houses an observatory, Air Force jet flight simulator, computer center, weather station and related hands-on learning tools for students. It has drawn more than 80,000 students and teachers from across the nation. The center, affiliated with the Apple Valley Unified School District, has drawn the support of many business and community leaders from its inception in 1985 for its effective experiments with new, creative educational methods.

In 1997, the center was awarded a federal grant to expand its facilities. In addition to adding offices, the new facility offers several innovative new educational spaces, including mission control, a high-tech control room where students from around the world are able to control the decommissioned Deep Space Network antenna. A digital TV studio, amateur radio station and control room were built with support from NASA and the Desert Community Bank and will allow students to produce and broadcast educational programs to more than 35,000 homes in cooperation with Hi-Desert Cablevision. The facility also features a library, sponsored by the Assistance League of the Victory Valley; and a Gateway to Excellence technology classroom sponsored by GTE, which includes a science education laboratory with a climate-controlled greenhouse.

The center also operates the Academy for Academic Excellence, a K-12 California Public Charter School, chartered by the Apple Valley Science and Technology Center. It combines classroom and lab work at the center with parental schooling in an innovative program to explore new effective learning programs. Classes are offered at the center for both students and parents.

JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA.

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