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People Top 5
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PEOPLE Top 5 are the most-viewed stories on the site over the past three days, updated every 60 minutes
- November 18, 2002
- Vol. 58
- No. 21
Sky's the Limit
Rick Piercy's Young Astronomers Help NASA's Rocket Scientists See Stars
Their cosmic journey was launched by ex-kindergarten teacher Rick Piercy, 50. In 1985 Piercy signed his class up for NASA's Young Astronauts Program, designed to stimulate interest in science by teaching kids to build model rockets and conduct experiments. Inspired by his students' enthusiasm, Piercy, a married father of two, decided to build an observatory of his own. Seventeen years and $20 million in grants and donations later, his Lewis Center for Educational Research (after California Rep. Jerry Lewis, a supporter) houses labs, a flight simulator and a charter school. As director, Piercy spends much of his time wandering the halls. "It's all about being there with the kids and being nurturing," he says.
The keystone of the Lewis Center is GAVRT, which allows students around the country, connected via the Internet, to use a nearby NASA radio telescope. Says Jonathan Portilio, 15: "You can tell your friends, 'We're going to see Saturn tonight.' " Which runs rings around doing homework.
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