Ad Astra Academy is a unique project that brings the excitement of exploration to students in poor regions of the world. We exploit curiosity, an essential human trait, to promote inquiry-based learning and unlock their potential. 20 kids from Rio de Janeiro’s City of God favela were selected to participate and, through a hands-on curriculum, developed reasoning skills and learn about Astronomy. Students build makeshift rovers and planned rover traverses on Mars, using actual data from Mars Science Lab (MSL) obtained with Curiosity. Through an arrangement established for AAA, students had a skype call with MSL team members at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Presenting their traverse plans to actual scientists and getting feedback on their ideas, students contribute to cutting-edge science and gain a demonstration of their potential.
To consolidate gains, an after-school program was offered, and two of the students were selected and paired with local professionals for paid internships. With empirical skills and empowerment, graduates will embark on a lifelong journey that will boost their economic prospects and promote social mobility through education.