CSU’s Coca-Cola Space Science Center Partners with NASA on $1.25 Million Grant

COLUMBUS, Ga. --- Columbus State University’s Coca-Cola Space Science Center has entered into a new partnership with NASA’s Kennedy Space Center to develop a program that will teach high schoolers how to design and manufacture vehicles for Mars.

The program, IMEET (Innovation Mars Exploration Education and Technology), is funded by a $1.25 million NASA Museum Alliance Grant. The grant is yet another example of CSU’s commitment to furthering STEM education efforts.

For the next three summers, high school students from Muscogee County and across the nation will spend two weeks as young aerospace engineers in Columbus at the Space Science Center crafting Mars rovers and helicopters using 3-D printing technologies.


These vehicles, not unlike those imagined in the book/film “The Martian,” are needed to research the surface of Mars and its harsh environment. It’s all part of an anticipated landing on Mars, something Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, predicted would occur by 2025.

“It may seem like science fiction, but these are the steps that are being taken - by NASA, by Musk, by our friends from Georgia Tech and by this center - to improve our capabilities for space exploration,” said Shawn Cruzen, CSU astronomy professor and director of the Coca-Cola Space Science Center. “This grant will help prepare our students for a world we’ve only just imagined.”

CSU is one of four sites selected to implement the grant’s curriculum. The other sites are: South Florida Science Center and Aquarium, Museum of Aviation Education Center and the Georgia Institute of Technology. Georgia Tech will be responsible for the development of the program’s curriculum and workshop instructions. The entire IMEET project will be led by the Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex.

Through the grant program, CSU’s Coca-Cola Space Science Center also will host workshops for area teachers to improve STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education in the context of space exploration.

“As one of the only science education centers in the nation based solely on space exploration, we are uniquely positioned to disseminate knowledge amongst the STEM community and increase youth engagement in the space sciences,” Cruzen said.