Chandler teacher named space agency ambassador The Chandler Arizonan

Chandler teacher named space agency ambassador

Chandler teacher named space agency ambassador
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By Lindsay Lyons
Staff Writer

Rachna Nath, a science-loving mother of two, added another title to her resume after she was named the 2020 Chandler National Aeronautics and Space Administration Solar System Ambassador.

“Being a NASA ambassador means a huge deal to me because I do not just get to represent NASA and talk about their work, but being able to gain resources and knowledge, for myself, my students and even my own children is incredible,” said the Chandler teacher.

A native of Assam, India, who moved to Arizona in 2003, Rachna is a STEM enthusiast and a research-based teacher who believes in DRIPBL – Dream, Research, and Innovate Project Based Learning.

While living in India, Nath earned her first master’s degree from Cotton College. She recently earned her second in biology from Arizona State University.

Nath is currently the STEM coordinator and an honors biology teacher at Arizona College Preparatory in Chandler. She also works with her students through Arizona State University on their ongoing research with honey bees.

She was recently awarded the Global Innovation Award by Turnitin and received an honorable mention for a Presidential Innovation Award for Environment Educators and also Two Massachusetts Institute of Technology Excite Awards.

She also was honored as an educator by Chandler Mayor Kevin Hartke during his State of the City address last month.

She said she is “extremely honored and humbled” by the NASA honor because she can share the space agency’s resources not only with the Chandler community but also with her alma mater in India.

The Solar System Ambassadors program is composed of motivated volunteers across the nation who share NASA science and mission discoveries through a variety of events in their communities.

The competitive program only accepts applications once a year. They are vetted by NASA for the right combination of presentation, motivation and ideas for community engagement.

Since the Solar System Ambassadors program was reorganized in 2000, volunteers such as Rachna Nath have conducted over 40,000 events, reaching more than 9 million people through in-person events.

Nath hopes to use her passion for aerospace and her presentation skills to excite and engage groups of all ages about aviation, astronomy and space exploration.

She also aims to connect other fields of science to help people understand the work of NASA and its Jet Propulsion Laboratory to help them understand the interdisciplinary aspect of space science.

Nath anticipates no problem arranging the four events the ambassador program requires because of her countless opportunities at Arizona College Prep and Arizona State University.

“I am trying to create the mindset NASA is not just about physics, astronomy and math. It is so much more than that. NASA is also biochemistry and life science,” said Nath.

Nath expressed her excitement over her student’s “hydro hat” invention recently earning them a spot in the Chandler Innovations program.

She described the invention as a wearable device able to detect heat strokes and notify the wearer their body temperature is getting too high and they must cool down.

“I want to change people’s thinking from ‘9th graders cannot think creatively’ to them saying ‘of course they can.’ All the students need a point in the right direction and the proper access to resources,” said Nath.

Nath said she enjoys getting to brainstorm, work and invent alongside her students.  “Being a NASA ambassador allows me to gain more contacts and it is where my motivation comes from. Networking is one of my biggest assets and the more contacts I have, the more contacts my students have as well,” Nath added.   

Nath said she and her students venture into the “unknown” of research and ideas often and added, “It is not all 100 percent success, but without failures, you do not know what success is.”

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