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Summer School at Starfleet Academy

July 28, 2002|ANDREW VONTZ

There aren't any Romulans, Wookies, or diminutive hairless creatures trying to phone home at the International Space University summer session, but the turnout from this solar system is pretty impressive. At Cal Poly Pomona through Aug. 31, about 100 students and professionals from 30 countries are in orbit for two months of interstellar brainstorming under the tutelage of distinguished teachers and guest lecturers from around the world.

A group of MIT grad students put together the first ISU summer session in 1988 as a forum for space-related disciplines such as biology, chemistry, engineering, policy, business, information technology, law and medicine. The conference was a step forward for a still-nascent field in which exploration and research were largely nationalistic endeavors. 'From the beginning [ISU] has been based on the ideal of the exploration of space for the betterment of humanity,' says Morla Milne, assistant director of the ISU summer session.

That first conference spawned a private institution with a permanent campus in Strasbourg, France, offering a graduate program in space studies, and a summer session held in a different city each year. At the 2000 summer session in Valparaiso, Chile, for example, participants helped Chile develop its own space agency.

ISU sponsors include NASA, the European Space Agency and the National Space Development Agency of Japan, as well as large corporations in North America, Europe and Japan, Milne says. About 1,800 ISU alums from 80 countries now make up 1% of the global space research and business communities, she says.

The first portion of this year's session is reserved for core lectures, while the schedule for later weeks splits students into teams for projects in astrobiology (the search for life forms beyond Earth) and using space technology to enhance human health. Special 'theme day' topics include 'Mars Mission,' 'Robotics,' 'Space Transportation' and a workshop on 'Space and Entertainment.'

In the spirit of intergalactic cooperation, the roster also includes four cultural awareness parties to celebrate the program's diversity and a space-theme masquerade party.

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