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AUGUST 11, 1997


Northshore student heads for NASA's space camp

  by Deborah Stone
   Fourteen year old Jackie Belcher, a ninth grader at Kenmore Jr. High, is one of an elite group of girls nationwide to be selected to attend a special space camp at NASA in Huntsville, Alabama. NASA selected Jackie based on her academic achievement, extra-curricular activities, community service and dedication to the fields of math and science. She was ranked fourth out of all the girls who applied to the program.
   Jackie's trip will be fully funded by a grant from Hewlett Packard to the Society of Women's Engineers. The Multi-Cultural Committee of the Society administers the awards through its Camper ship Program, which serves to encourage young women in ethnic groups to pursue careers in Engineering.
   During her one week stay with NASA, she will experience astronaut training, including sampling space food, wearing a space suit, being exposed to simulated conditions inside a space shuttle and learning about some of the problems that astronauts face while in space.
   Jackie's interest in space began in first grade, where she was fortunate to have a teacher who enthusiastically exposed her to the magic of astronomy. She says, "This teacher was my role model and helped interest me in science. He made things fun and encouraged me to be curious."
   Over the past year, Jackie participated in the SPLASH program, a hands-on interdisciplinary program funded by the National Science Foundation and sponsored by Seattle University, in which thirty selected eighth graders do math and science using water as their theme. The students work on projects in small teams under the guidance of a professional mentor. Jackie's mentor was Dr. Kathleen Sullivan, Associate Professor of Mathematics from Seattle University and co-director of SPLASH.
   Jackie's team studied fractals. However, she went on to do further investigations which led her to prepare a project for the state science fair at Olympic College in Bremerton. She modified a computer program, using a famous fractal called Sierpinski's triangle. She received two honorable mentions for her entry as well as a certificate of appreciation from the U.S. Air Force.
   In addition to excelling in math and science, Jackie is also a talented flute player and a competitive swimmer. She dabbles in architecture, too, and helped draw up plans to redo the bathrooms in her house.
   When she learned she had been chosen to attend NASA's space camp, the information didn't really sink in until later. "My mom called in the middle of class at school to tell me the news and I just didn't realize that I was really going," says Jackie. She is excited, but filled with some trepidation about flying to Alabama and having to transfer flights. Her mother Laura, who works at Seattle University, is thrilled about the experiences that Jackie will have ahead of her.
   "I'm so proud of her," Laura says. "My buttons are popping everywhere. It's such a wonderful opportunity for Jackie. She will be able to ask questions in an environment where people will take her seriously. It's so important that society help promote young women in the science fields and provide positive role models for them."