NASA awards grant to keep kids engaged in engineering in San Marcos

SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) — NASA is cutting a $400,000 check to Texas State University in San Marcos to expand the university’s Future Aerospace-Engineers and Mathematicians Academy (FAMA) project that will help San Marcos Consolidated Independent School District.

Three years ago, Dr. Araceli Martinez Ortiz founded the Little Engineers Summer program. The summer program teaches students in the SMCISD about science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The program is part of the FAMA project collaboration between the LBJ Institute for STEM Education and Research at Texas State University, the San Marcos Consolidated Independent School District and the Centro Cultural Hispano de San Marcos (Centro).

Adylyn Jeffers is in 5th grade and and says the summer camp has been a great learning experience, she even had a chance to work with rockets.

“See how much drag it had and wind it caught,” Jeffers remembers.

Organizers say the summer camp is meant to spark a love for engineering early in minorities and women—two groups that are traditionally under-represented in the profession.

Cassandra Amaya is also a 5th grader who says she never knew there were so many other avenues of engineering.

“When I went to the camp I was like, oh you can do a bunch of other stuff other than be a computer whiz,” Amaya remembers.

Dr. Araceli Martinez Ortiz is a former engineer and current Texas State professor so she she loves exposing kids to all the possibilities of the profession.

“Sometimes they will design windmills, sometimes they will design parachutes, sometimes they will design rockets,” Dr. Martinez Ortiz shares.

Little Engineers applied for and received a $400,000 grant from NASA; a big boost for this program that runs off volunteers. The grant will allow the program to expand to operate year-round and provide food and transportation to some students.

“It is very exciting because we have been running it on a shoe string. It’s basically me working as a researcher with teachers as volunteers and very small stipends to run a summer program,” Ortiz explains.

By partnering with Centro, the organization was able to provide the camp for free. At the Centro there will be a dedicated computer center where families can come in for free. In addition they want to create a backpack program where kids can take projects home and do activities with their families. To make it real family affair, the organization wants to create family nights, workshops and teacher training.

“I hope that business partners out there in the community will step and say ‘yes we want this to continue for years and years,'” Ortiz says.

Ortiz says it will take more funding to allow the program to continue to run in the future to continue inspiring kids like Adylyn Jeffers.

“Thank you a lot because we wouldn’t have gotten to do this again unless they got more money,” Jeffers says with gratitude.

Parents and families will hear about the various school-year programs from their schools toward the end of this fall semester. Online registration for summer FAMA engineering camps will be announced through the Centro Cultural Hispano de San Marcos website. Family Café events (discussions with families) will begin in October/ November for families to learn about STEM education opportunities for their children. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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