Science Cheerleader Bringing more science to the people! Tue, 03 Nov 2015 16:50:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Meet Science Cheerleader Lauren at the Maryland STEM Festival, October 29! Fri, 23 Oct 2015 19:03:15 +0000 [ Read Full Story ]]]> laurenhead-150x150On October 29, Lauren will represent Science Cheerleader as a special ambassador at the Wearable Electronics Fashion Show at the Westfield Annapolis Mall!  This event is part of the Anne Arundel County STEM Festival, which is part of the Maryland STEM Festival.  This event hosts non profit organizations, educational institutions, businesses, and government organizations to highlight the importance of STEM in our everyday lives.  Lauren will judge the designs, mingle with attendees, and talk about the importance of STEM.

Catch Lauren in the Young Adult Wing near Crate and Barrel from 6-8pm!  She will be there along with art show style platforms showcasing the wearable electronics designs.


Lauren Washington Redskins Science Cheerleader

Lauren: mathematician, former cheerleader for the Washington Wizards and Washington Redskins


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Science Cheerleaders Visit Hammond High School Wed, 21 Oct 2015 13:57:40 +0000 [ Read Full Story ]]]> Hey SciCheer fans! My name is Megan and I recently spoke with the newly inducted DIAMONDS at Hammond High School in Columbia, MD. The DIAMONDS are a select group of African American high school females with outstanding performance both in and out of the classroom. The theme of the event was encouraging this group of young women to be the best that they can be. These ladies will be role models to their fellow high school students. SciCheer contributed to this conversation by leading the ladies in a cheer for science and discussing that you can do whatever you want to do if you set your mind to it!

I also helped onboard the DIAMONDS so they can participate in the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) project with Science Cheerleader, our sister SciStarter, and NASA. Be sure to check that out!

We look forward to mentoring these ladies more in the coming months while helping with this citizen science project!


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Science Cheerleaders at SAVE JON Event with Mike Ditka in Chicago Wed, 07 Oct 2015 00:26:06 +0000 [ Read Full Story ]]]> Save JON SciCheers

Hello, Science Cheerleader fans! Today, SciCheers Ashley, Brandi, Jo, and Teleza will be flying into Chicago from across the country to participate in the SAVE JON, an event to support research on a rare liver and bile duct disease called Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (PSC).

SAVE JON is holding their “Game Changer” event in Union Station in Chicago, where it will be hosted former Chicago Bears Head Coach Mike Ditka in honor of NFL legend (and one of my hometown favorite players) Walter Payton. Payton died from bile duct cancer associated with PSC over 15 years ago, but many people don’t know that the cause of Payton’s illness was PSC.


Ashley, a former Orlando Magic Dancer, works at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

Brandi, who cheered for the Indianapolis Colts, has a  Master’s of Public Health Administration.

Jo, formerly a cheerleader for the Baltimore Ravens, is an environmental engineer. She has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Geology with a minor in Meteorology from Marshall University.

Teleza cheered for the Washington Redskins. She has a biology degree (with a chemistry minor) and is presently teaching science to 7th and 8th grade students.

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Raquel: Nursing Student and Miami Dolphins Cheerleader! Fri, 02 Oct 2015 00:25:09 +0000 [ Read Full Story ]]]> Hi there! Science Cheerleader Hilary here excited to introduce you to Raquel, who is in her third year of her nursing degree and a third year veteran on the Miami Dolphins cheerleading squad! Read on below to learn all about her.

What turned you on to science??

Someone who has had a tremendous influence in my schooling life and overall has been my mother, she has been my rock and has opened my mind in so many ways, she was also in nursing school while I was in high school which made my journey so much fun because she would always come home with stories from her clinical experiences, at times she would come home crying due to exams and out of frustration but I remember this is what she loved and that it was worth every tear. Once she became a nurse I remember I used to always ask her to tell me her stories and what she had experienced and what she loved most about it, and I was just amazed by her drive and excitement. Once I graduated high school I went on to a community college and completed my prerequisites for nursing school and volunteered at a hospital here in Miami.

Why did you try out to be a professional cheerleader?
I tried out for the Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders in hopes that I could represent this city, and to be a part of this prestigious team full of young women who love to dance in front of thousands of fans, and most importantly are very involved and give back to the community.

 IMG_1899Please describe what you do in your science career on a daily basis.
I go to school Monday through Friday for lecture, and on Wednesdays I go to the hospital to the baby unit and complete clinical hours. While in the clinic I watch babies being born, assess them to make sure their heart and lungs sound okay, and help out the mom and dad as well as the nurses in whatever they need. I spend most of my time studying, because in nursing it is really important to know what you are doing and why you are doing it. I also work at a hospital as an operator on the weekend.

What does it mean for you to be studying nursing?
Being able to practice in the nursing field is everything to me. I am very passionate about helping people and making their day a little easier than yesterday. I see myself being a compassionate and competent nurse in my city. The most important part about nursing is that you have someone’s life in your hands, and it is so important to take care of it. I hope to grow into a leader in nursing and be able to save as many lives as I can or simply put a smile on my patient’s face.

How do the qualities that make/made you a great cheerleader benefit you in your science career?
Being a Miami Dolphins cheerleader has made me more confident in approaching people, making conversation flow naturally since we are constantly engaging with fans. This has helped me tremendously in the health care environment because it makes my patients feel more comfortable, and that is the first step to building a trusting relationship with them.

How do you feel about breaking down negative stereotypes about cheerleaders? Have you faced a situation where you had to challenge a stereotype about cheerleaders [or being a woman in a STEM field]?
I feel like everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and as a professional cheerleader you touch many people’s lives simply by bringing joy and laughter into them. Many young girls love dance and aspire to someday be professional cheerleaders. School is something very important to me and so as a cheerleader I block all the negative comments and remind myself how many beautiful memories this team has brought me and how I always have my sisters to share my nursing stories with. I lead by example and worry about the people who care about me and myself.

Best cheerleading experience?
The most rewarding experience I have had as a Miami Dolphins Cheerleader was an appearance in the Veterans Hospital here in Miami. We were able to cheer up many of these courageous men and women and sign autographs and take pictures with them during their stay, and I was also very fortunate to meet some of the Tuskegee Airmen that day since they were having an event for Memorial day.

Best health-related experience?
The best experience I have had so far has been during this semester  seeing the miracle of life, the best gift a mother can receive. I was so honored to be a part of such a joyous moment.

What advice would you give your 12-year-old self?
Give in to those curiosities as it can lead you to many rewarding careers later on. Dream big and be your own biggest motivator. Life is full of awesome experiences and it is ultimately up to you to enjoy them.

What’s one thing people might find especially surprising about you?
I always get this one statement from family and friends: “How to do you manage to have time for yourself, school, cheerleading, and work?” I am a great multitasker and I work very well under pressure, which is why I love the life I live.


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Meet the Science Cheerleaders at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, today! Sat, 12 Sep 2015 12:29:12 +0000 [ Read Full Story ]]]> megan-scicheer

Megan: software engineer, former Redskins cheerleader

Adriene Baltimore Ravens Science Cheerleader

Adriene: Animal Scientist, former Baltimore Ravens cheerleader

Tynesha: Baltimore Blast, Chemist

Tynesha: Chemist, Baltimore Blast cheerleader

Lauren: mathematician, former cheerleader for the Washington Wizards and Redskins

Lauren: mathematician, former cheerleader for the Washington Wizards and Redskins

Today, from 10-3, the Science Cheerleaders will be at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum (in Space Race (Gallery 114)) to help celebrate “Women in Aviation: Heritage Family Days.”

The Science Cheerleaders and team members from SciStarter will lead activities to inform the public about nationwide research that examines soil moisture conditions and water availability. NASA’s SMAP (Soil Moisture Active Passive) satellite is measuring soil moisture from the sky. SciStarter and the Science Cheerleaders are working with YLACES (Youth Learning as Citizen and Environmental Scientists) to engage teams on Earth to ground-truth the satellite data.

Kids at today’s event will make their own mission patches, informed by this one, designed exclusively for the SciCheer/SciStarter SMAP project!
smap patch image

The Science Cheerleaders will also sign autographs and talk about their new book: The Science of Cheerleading, now available on iTunes!



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New Science Cheerleader Appearances Wed, 02 Sep 2015 21:37:51 +0000 [ Read Full Story ]]]> Meet a Science Cheerleader at the following events: (list is not complete)

September 11

Discovery Center Museum Event
Rockford, IL

September 12

Family Science Days: Women in Aviation and Space
National Air & Space Museum
Washington, DC

September 21

Million Women Mentors Event Summit and Gala
National Press Club
Washington, DC

October 1

Hammond High School STEAM Kick-off Event
Columbia, MD

October 7

SAVE JON Fundraiser with the Chicago Bears
Chicago, IL

October 24

Girl Scout STEM Expo
Atlanta, GA

October 29

Anne Arundel STEM Festival /  Wearable Electronics Fashion Show
Westfield Annapolis Mall
Annapolis, MD

November 6-15

Maryland STEM Festival
Various locations across MD

December 27

Science at the Boston Celtics with the Science Cheerleaders
Boston, MA

February 13-14, 2016

AAAS Family Science Days
Marriott Wardman Park Hotel
Washington, DC

April 16, 2016

Beachwood, OH

April 16-17

USA Science & Engineering Festival
Walter E. Washington Convention Center
Washington, DC

Bill Nye and the Science Cheerleaders

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Lauren: Miami Dolphins cheerleader, RN, and a real life saver! Wed, 02 Sep 2015 21:31:46 +0000 Hi there! Science Cheerleader Hilary here to introduce you to Lauren, a full-time registered nurse who is currently in her second season with the Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders! Read on below to learn all about Lauren.

lauren Miami Dolphins science cheerleader

What turned you on to nursing and when?
Some people know from a young age that they want to pursue a career in nursing, but this was not the case for me. Not only did I not know what I wanted to do, but at first, I rejected the idea of nursing. I went on a mission trip to South Africa for a few weeks with my family. We spent day after day working in the hospitals/schools/clinics etc. and it completely changed my heart. I saw how much suffering was taking place in this world and how much a loving heart meant to the patients in that time of need. Becoming a nurse was an amazing choice because it allows me to spend every single day giving my life to help others.

Why did you try out to be a professional cheerleader?
I was a studio dancer my whole life and when I decided to go to nursing school, I decided to give up dancing. Although nursing is amazing, I still felt like something was missing. When the opportunity to attend a prep class presented itself, I took it. I had the time of my life in that one class and after that, there wasn’t a doubt in my mind about auditioning.

Lauren_workphoto_DolphinsWhat’s a day on the job like for you?
I begin my work day at about 6:30 a.m. I arrive early to look up the background on my patients before I receive reports from the night nurse. Then I spend my day taking care of the patients’ needs, passing out medications, and sending home the patients that have permission from the doctor. I also teach a lot of my patients about their diagnosis and how to handle their medical problems when they are discharged from the hospital.

What does it mean for you to be practicing in healthcare?
This profession means so much to me. I started off having very little desire to get into this field and now, I am determined to make a difference in the lives of every single patient that I get the privilege to take care of. I want to be someone to lean on, a helping hand in a hard time, and a shoulder to cry on. I am blessed with the opportunity to help people every single day and I will never take that responsibility lightly. I am so thankful to be where I am today and I wouldn’t change my role in this field for anything.

How do the qualities that make you a great cheerleader benefit you in your nursing career?
To be a great cheerleader, you must be positive, supportive of your teammates, and dedicated to what you do because it is hard work. Nursing is the same. It is long hours and hard days sometimes, but the dedication to your patients is what keeps you positive.

Have you faced a situation where you had to challenge a stereotype about cheerleaders?
I have experienced this stereotype many times since I have been on the team. It seems difficult for people to grasp, not only that a cheerleader has the capability to be a nurse, but that a cheerleader has time to be a nurse. During season, I work three days a week and practice at least three days a week. That is a lot of work! I think there are a lot of girls on the team that break the negative cheerleader stereotypes and it makes me proud to be a part of a team with such successful and hardworking women.

Best cheerleading experience?
I was blessed with the opportunity to travel with the Miami Dolphins and visit our military overseas. This was truly a life-changing trip for me. I was so humbled by seeing, first hand, the sacrifice that these men and women make. I made memories on that trip that will truly last a lifetime.

Best nursing-related experience?
The first time I performed CPR on a patient was the best nursing-related experience I have ever had. The patient survived and has been back to the hospital to visit several times to say “thank you.” Knowing that I have the opportunity, every single day, to save someone’s life is truly incredible.

What advice would you give your 12-year-old self?
I would tell myself to never give up. When you are looking at your goals, sometimes they seem so far away, but that is ok. If it were easy, everyone would do it. Take things one day at a time, make small goals and never EVER stop striving to be better.

What’s one thing people might find especially surprising about you?
I was born in an ambulance!

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Laura: Registered Nurse and Miami Dolphins Cheerleader! Wed, 12 Aug 2015 09:54:33 +0000 [ Read Full Story ]]]> Hi there! Science Cheerleader Hilary here to introduce you to Laura, a registered nurse and current Miami Dolphins cheerleader! Read on below to learn all about her.


Laura is in her second season of cheering with the Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders and holds a degree in nursing from Florida Gulf Coast University. She currently balances cheering for her favorite football team and being a registered nurse!

What turned you on to science and when?
My grandmother and aunt were both nurses so I grew up with a lot of influence from nurses. I was always interested in science and medicine, and I have wanted to be a nurse ever since I can remember. I find the field to be so fascinating. Additionally, I had a strong personal connection to the field. My parents always tell me stories about how they spent countless weeks in a hospital when I was younger because I was an extremely sick infant. They tell me how caring the nurses were and, although they are grateful for the doctors that helped me, it was the nurses who always got them through some of the tough times. If it weren’t for the amazing medical staff I wouldn’t be the person I am today.  My parents’ stories have inspired me to be a part of the medical field so that I can give back and have an influence on people lives like others did on mine and my parents’.

Why did you try out to be a professional cheerleader?
I wanted to be a professional cheerleader since I was a little girl. While growing up, I was both a cheerleader and a dancer. The older I got, the more I realized I would love to share the passion I had for cheering and dancing, and I couldn’t think of a better way to do that than to cheer on my hometown football team. As a Miami native, I grew up going to Miami Dolphins football games; my family and I are all big fans. In fact, my mother was also a Miami Dolphins cheerleader when she was younger!

IMG_9238 (1)Please describe what you do in your science career on a daily basis.
I work in a hospital in the Emergency department as a registered nurse.  As a nurse, I work three shifts a week, and each shift is 12 hours long. My current shift is from 1 pm to 1 am. As an emergency room nurse, I treat patients in emergency situations that may have been through trauma or injury. I start my shift by taking report from the RN on the previous shift and then spend the day handling each situation that comes my way. I work very closely with doctors and other health professionals. I provide rapid assessment and treatment to patients that are ill or in life-threatening situations.  The emergency room provides for a very fast-paced setting where I use a lot of critical thinking and time management skills to provide safe and high quality care to every patient that enters our department. I also spend a lot of time educating patients so they can better understand what is going on and hopefully ease their minds when they are in scary and difficult situation.  I believe my profession gives me the opportunity every day to make a difference in peoples lives.

What does it mean for you to be a nurse?
It is truly rewarding to be a nurse and to have a career as a health professional. To me, to be a nurse means to be caring and compassionate and to have the skills to be able to aid other health professionals to save the lives of individuals. Nurses are tasked with a great deal of health care responsibilities. I do not take my responsibility lightly and I hope to possibly one day further my education in this field. This profession means so much to me and I feel truly blessed to be apart of it.

How do the qualities that make/made you a great cheerleader benefit you in your science career?
 Two of the main qualities that make a great cheerleader are having a positive attitude and being a team player.  Coincidentally, I find these to be two of the most important qualities of a nurse, especially an emergency room nurse. We are all human and cannot do everything ourselves. Teamwork is an essential element of patient care and, in emergent situations, can mean the difference between life and death. In my department specifically, we work everyday along side numerous people in the health profession to create the best patient outcome. As a nurse, it is also especially important to have a positive attitude. Every day we work with patients who are likely going through a difficult time; we have to stay positive to keep their spirits high and make their hospital experience as pleasurable as possible. One of the many things I have learned in this career is that our attitude has a rippling effect.

How do you feel about breaking down negative stereotypes about cheerleaders? Have you faced a situation where you had to challenge a stereotype about cheerleaders [or being a woman in a STEM field]?
With all the stereotypes about cheerleaders I can truly say that each and every time I am asked what I do outside of cheerleading, I am so incredibly proud to say that I work in the medical field.  It is so meaningful to me to be able to say that I am an educated, independent, and confident woman who also enjoys being a professional cheerleader. I hope that I can be an example to change peoples’ impressions about cheerleaders. There have been multiple times when I am approached and asked if cheerleaders have careers or what we do with our “free time” and I am so blessed and proud to say I don’t have a lot of free time because I have a full-time, successful career. And I’m proud to say that my teammates do, as well. Unfortunately, cheerleaders are sometimes misunderstood. What people don’t understand is that to be a professional cheerleader, most of us also have to be a full-time student or have a full-time job to support ourselves. It is important to me that we change the way cheerleaders are perceived.  It takes a lot of time management to be a professional cheerleader and have a career, but it is also extremely rewarding. I am proud of the women we are and look forward to the day everyone realizes how hard we work to do what we love for both our hobbies and our careers.

Best cheerleading experience?
Every single opportunity I have—both on and off the field—to perform as a Miami Dolphins cheerleader or represent the franchise is amazing. My favorite experience thus far was making an appearance and cheering at the start of the race for the Dolphins Cycling Challenge. The DCC is an event that started in 2010 and 100% of its participant-raised funds is donated to innovative cancer research at he Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. Not only did I meet incredible people with life-changing stories, but I also got to be a part of great cause that is closely related to my professional career. An equally enjoyable and favorite experience of mine was traveling to the Navy base in the Keys just a couple months ago. I was able to perform for and meet amazing brave men and women. Being a professional cheerleader opens you up to so many incredible opportunities that are extremely eye-opening and life-changing.

Best health-related experience?
My best health-related experience was when I got to be a part of a special reunion that is put on every year by my previous employer. Before the ER I worked in the NICU (neo-natal intensive care unit).  Each year our department held a special day called the “NICU Reunion” where families who had spent anywhere from a couple days to several months in our department could come back and visit with the medical staff that helped care for their baby.  It was incredible to see that babies we once thought might not make it to had grown into toddlers, and to see their forever grateful families.  It was at that event that I realized how much I absolutely love what I do.  Words cannot explain what it means to me to be able to make such a difference in so many peoples’ lives on a daily basis.

What advice would you give your 12-year-old self?
Never give up. Anything and everything is possible if you put your mind, effort, and heart into it. I would also tell myself that life is short so always do what makes you happy.

What’s one thing people might find especially surprising about you?
When I tell people that I am from Miami, they would never guess or believe that I was raised on a farm. People would be surprised to learn that despite my city roots, I am a country girl at heart. I grew up on a five-acre farm right on the outskirts of the city with many exotic animals–cows, horses, goats, emus, pigs, wallabies, dogs, buffalo, bulls, and deer—all of which were pets. All of our pets were bottle-fed and hand-raised. I also used to drive a Ford F150 truck and I know all the lyrics to every country song!

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Alexa: AZ Cardinals Cheerleader and Aerospace Techie Mon, 10 Aug 2015 21:51:33 +0000 [ Read Full Story ]]]> Alexa - Arizona Cardinals

Alexa – Arizona Cardinals

Hi SciCheer fans! Samantha here! I’d like to introduce you to one of the newest members of the Arizona Cardinals Cheerleaders, and now, a Science Cheerleader! Alexa received her Bachelors of Science in Geographic Information Systems from the University of Maryland, and a Masters of Science in Business Analytics from Arizona State University. She is now working as a product specialist for Honeywell Aerospace! Talk about reaching for the stars!

What turned you on to STEM and when?
I vividly remember being in the eighth grade and absolutely loving science class and doing my science homework. From then on I knew I would study science and hopefully make a career in a scientific field.

Alexa WorkWhat is your job like at Honeywell?
I work as a product specialist at Honeywell Aerospace, a Fortune 100 company and the largest manufacturer of avionics and aircraft engines in the world. My role falls into product management, so it is a hybrid of business and technology. I support the strategy and decisions around all technical publications, which govern how maintenance is done on our aerospace products. I am responsible for all the financials around this as well – such as profit, revenue and loss. I help to protect the intellectual property of my company by ensuring our publications are available only to the correct customers. In addition, I work to ensure that our customers have access to the correct and most current publications so they meet the requirements for continued airworthiness, the laws that govern whether or not aircraft can legally fly. 

Why did you try out to be a professional cheerleader
I’ve been dancing since the age of 3– competitive dance studio, high school dance team, and college dance team. At a young age I set my sights on getting to the highest caliber I could in the dance/cheer world and so becoming an NFL cheerleader became a dream of mine. On top of that, I love football and being such an integral part of the game day experience by cheering on the field is an amazing feeling. The first day I walked into the Arizona Cardinals training facility I knew I was at home!

What does it mean for you to work in STEM?
In a field that is largely dominated by men, being a woman working in STEM is an amazing feeling.  I am unafraid of challenges and I love being in an environment that pushes me every day.  Being a woman in STEM has made me stronger in many ways and is an extremely important part of who I am.

How do the qualities that make you a great cheerleader benefit you in your STEM career?
Time management, attention to detail and confidence are some of the most valuable skills that being a dancer my entire life have taught me. Without a doubt, all of these traits carry over into my career and work life. From a very young age I learned to balance hours of dance class and practice with the demands of my education. Today,  effective time management  continues to be important, and allows me to do all that I do every day, such as working 40+ hour weeks at my job and then going to practice many times a week. In dance, hours are spent making sure every single count in a routine is exactly in the right place on an exact count. Every day, I apply the same attention to detail to my work. Lastly, the confidence I’ve gained through being a dancer will stay with me forever and plays an important role in the way I portray myself to others.

Best cheerleading experience?
So far the best cheerleading experience for me has been making the team and being surrounded by such strong, talented and diverse women. I’ve learned so much my teammates already and I am honored to take the field with them for the first time this fall!

Best STEM-related experience?
My best STEM related experience was when I interned for NASA at the Goddard Space Flight Center during my senior year of college. It was so exciting going to work every day and seeing all the amazing feats of science we have achieved as mankind.  The focus of my internship was using geographic information systems and remote sensing for flood mitigation efforts in Southeast Asia. In addition, I was able to meet some of the astronauts from the International Space Station, learn about heliophysics, give a presentation at NASA headquarters and of course learn about the aerospace industry overall.

What advice would you give your 12-year-old self?
The best achievements in life are the ones you work really hard for! Keep going with the things that are important to you, even when you feel discouraged, whether its school, dance, cheer or anything else. One of my favorite sayings is quote by Earl Nightingale “Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.”

What’s one thing people might find especially surprising about you?
I’m working towards my FAA private pilot license! I just finished pilot ground school and I’m hoping to take my exam soon. Then, I will start flight school and have to fly over 40 hours with an instructor. I’m hoping to finish all of this and have my pilot license within the next 2 years.

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Science Cheerleaders enlist youth athletes as citizen scientists for nationwide research that examines soil moisture conditions and water availability Sat, 25 Jul 2015 15:04:44 +0000 [ Read Full Story ]]]> Science Cheerleader, NASA, SciStarter enlist youth cheerleaders and football players as citizen scientists for nationwide research that examines soil moisture conditions and water availability

Grant from Youth Learning as Citizen Environmental Scientists enables Science Cheerleaders and SciStarter to recruit, train, and equip youth in  STEM research 

NASA's new Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite

NASA’s new Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite

Philadelphia, PA – (July 25, 2015) – NASA scientists are on a mission to map global soil moisture, and through SciStarter and Science Cheerleader, they’re teaming up with citizen scientists to gather valuable data from the ground to complement and validate what is seen from space.

Known as the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite mission, the research will help scientists understand links among Earth’s water, energy and carbon cycles; reduce uncertainties in predicting climate; and enhance the ability to monitor and predict natural hazards like floods and droughts. SMAP data have additional practical applications for citizens everywhere, including improved weather forecasting and crop yield predictions.

A Science Cheerleader leads Pop Warner cheerleaders on study of microbes on Earth and on the Space Station.

A Science Cheerleader leads Pop Warner cheerleaders on study of microbes on Earth and on the Space Station.

Following on the success of Project MERCCURI, a 2013-2014 citizen science partnership between Pop Warner Youth Scholars, Inc., UC Davis/Eisen Lab, SciStarter, and Science Cheerleader, involving microbial research on the International Space Station,  Youth Learning as Citizen Environmental Scientists ( has announced a $50,000 grant to SciStarter , in partnership with Science Cheerleader, to recruit, train, and equip teams in all 50 states to measure and report soil moisture measurements at regular intervals. Data will be made available to local decision-makers and it will be used to help validate and calibrate NASA’s SMAP satellite.

On mornings when SMAP is scheduled to fly over a team’s site or before or after a game or practice, the football and cheer teams will take soil samples from the top 5 cm (2 inches) of soil, weigh it, dry it under a heat lamp, and weigh again. The decrease in weight is equal to the mass of water that was in the sample – its soil moisture. Measurements are simple to take and appropriate for all citizen scientists, including youth. Each participating team will provide several measurements per month during football season. Several teams are forming “SMAP clubs” to provide clusters of 10 measurements covering an area 10 km in radius and report data more frequently.

“Participating in this project will enable anyone, anywhere, to learn more about the quality of their soil (including football fields!) , compare that to others at local, regional, national and global scales, and see the application of their work applied to an important, large-scale research effort at NASA,” said Darlene Cavalier, founder of Science Cheerleader and SciStarter. “With this YLACES grant, we’re able to help connect people to the tools and resources needed to engage meaningfully in participatory STEM research. “

This grant also makes it possible for one team from each state to receive tools needed for this project including a heat lamp, graduated cylinders, data sheets and a companion rain gauge for a complementary citizen science project measuring rain, snow and hail precipitation. This kit is valued at more than $250. Kits will also be made available for purchase via SciStarter and at a new lending library coordinated by SciStarter and

Brian Campbell, a member of the SMAP team at NASA, emphasized the importance of the measurements that will be taken on the ground. “Having citizen scientists collect data is vital to the SMAP Mission. Their data can be compared to the SMAP satellite data and used as a source of validation. This validation will allow for a much more robust and accurate dataset, giving an optimal understanding of global soil moisture.”

How to Participate in the SMAP Project

EVERYONE is invited to participate! Science enthusiasts, people who are concerned about their environment and our global water resources, teachers, athletes, families, civic groups, gardeners – anyone who will commit to taking regular soil measurements – can become part of this important research. Indicate interest by completing a brief online form BY AUGUST 10.

Pop Warner participants can include their involvement for credit on their Pop Warner Scholarship Application!

Teachers of students from grades 3-12 are encouraged to visit for ideas and tools for incorporating this SMAP project into their lesson plans.

Importance of Citizen Science to Society and Students

Science is our most reliable system of gaining new knowledge and citizen science is the public involvement in inquiry and discovery of new scientific knowledge. A citizen science project can involve one person or millions of people collaborating towards a common goal. A recent report from the National Academies[1] confirmed that opportunities to learn STEM outside of school directly affect what is possible inside classrooms. The report showed that out-of-school programs (such as this SMAP citizen science program) can contribute to young people’s interest in and understanding of STEM, connect young people to caring adults who serve as role models, and can even reduce the achievement gap between young people from low-income and high-income families.

“With this YLACES grant and the NASA soil project, we’re engaging youth in meaningful research about their environment, their future. They can see the importance of the research, they feel important because they’re part of it, and they can learn about how to affect change for the future. What a fantastic opportunity for both the students and the scientists,” concluded Cavalier.

About SciStarter

SciStarter aims to enable people to contribute to science through informal recreational activities and formal research efforts. The web site creates a shared space where scientists can connect with citizens interested in working on or learning about joint research projects. SciStarter currently features 1,000 searchable citizen science projects and recruits participants through partnerships with Discover Magazine, the National Science Teachers Association, Public Library of Science, WHYY/NPR, Pop Warner Youth Scholars, and more.



[1]  Identifying and Supporting Productive STEM Programs in Out-of-School Settings ( 2015 )

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