Written by Mark Griffin
Friday, 12 December 2008 15:54
December 23 will be Julie Muffler's last day as the director of the Challenger Center of Lucas County.
Muffler, 57, has been the director since the Challenger Center opened in 2003.
Prior to this position she spent three years as manager of the Chabot Space & Science Center in Oakland, Calif.
Her next position will be as the deputy director with NASA's education specialist program at Penn State University in State College, Pa.
"There are educators assigned to each of NASA's installations," Muffler said. "There are 10 of them all over the country. These specialists go to the schools (K-12) and do programs with students and professional development with teachers."
Muffler said the education specialists are part of a program awarded to a university as a cooperative agreement between NASA and the university. Penn State has an agreement with NASA to administer the education specialist program.
Muffler said the Aerospace, Education, Services Project (AESP) called her to offer her the deputy director position.
"A couple of the specialists, we've worked with them before (at the Challenger Center) and they have worked with us and they know us," Muffler said. "When they were looking for a deputy director position, they thought of me. The education specialists gave my name to Dr. Bill Carlsen, the director of the AESP program at Penn State."
Muffler's new job will be to work with the content that the education specialist will deliver to the classrooms and to the professional development workshops. Muffler has a Master's degree in education from Indiana University.
"We take the NASA programs, the directorates, take them and build them into educational units," Muffler said. "We will develop the workshop for the teachers to distribute the education materials that NASA has developed."
The materials will include discussing space shuttle missions, the design of space suits and why astronauts need them.
"We want to give teachers up-to-date information on the NASA programs," Muffler said.
While doing that, the lessons are geared to the state standards that the teachers are teaching the students. It's a different way of teaching what is to be taught at the grade school level with an exciting, real world connection."
Muffler, who resides in Oregon, said she will miss the Challenger Center.
"I love the Challenger Center and what we do," she said. "The students are totally committed.
he motivation that I have to have taken this new job when it was offered was career growth for me. It allows me to work on my Ph.D., which is something I've wanted to do for a while.
"Professionally, I'll be working with teachers and educators on a nationwide scale. That's kind of the draw. I've worked with Challenger Centers for the last 14 years as a flight director at various places. I feel the Challenger Center is the best program I've ever seen to work with students and teachers. It is time for me to work with a university connection and move forward."
Reed Steele, who has been the lead flight director at the Challenger Center since 2003, will take over Muffler's duties on an interim basis, according to Muffler. She said a new flight director will be assigned at the beginning of 2009.
"We have to have somebody else to fly the mission with him, so that's why we have to have another flight director," Muffler said. "We want to make sure the rest of this year goes smoothly. He may assume my position (permanently) and he may not."
The Challenger Center of Lucas County is located in the Shuer Center at 4955 Seaman Rd. To log on to their website, click www.challenger.org.