Students who returned to classes fall may find themselves writing
about what they did during summer vacation. For Huntsville, Ala., native
Brian Barnes, the answer was the same as the past four years — just another
summer in the classroom.

But for Barnes, a participant in NASA educational internship
programs, summer “classroom” was at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in
Huntsville. And there’s no place he’d rather be.

For five summers, Barnes, a 2002 graduate of Morehouse College in
Atlanta, has participated in three NASA educational internship programs at
the Marshall Center. Coming up through these programs has helped convince
him to make a career out of the classroom — trading the role of student for
that of educator. This fall, he will begin pursuing a graduate degree in
education from Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. Part of the credit
for his achievements, Barnes says, goes to NASA.

“I’m very excited about this opportunity. My NASA experiences have
helped greatly in setting the goals I want to accomplish when I’m a teacher
in the classroom. At Harvard, I know I’ll be getting the best instruction
to become a professional educator,” said Barnes.

While honing his keen talents for math and science at Lee High
School in Huntsville, Barnes became involved in NASA’s Summer High School
Apprenticeship Research Program, called “SHARP” for short. The annual
internship program, introduced in 1980, is designed to attract a diverse
group of high school students to aerospace careers. During the summer,
students work with scientists and engineers, performing assignments under
the supervision of NASA mentors. As a SHARP intern, Barnes worked in the
astrionics and propulsion labs at the Marshall Center.

As a math major at Morehouse, Barnes moved out of the SHARP program,
becoming a Ronald E McNair Scholar at the Marshall Center for three summers.
The award honors McNair, the second African-American in space and a member
of the Space Shuttle crew that died during the 1986 Challenger accident.
NASA’s McNair Scholars program is administered through Morehouse College to
encourage male students who show an interest in math and science. As part
of his scholarship, Barnes continued his work with mechanical engineers in
the Marshall Center’s propulsion labs. He also assisted in the development
of the Center’s Freedom of Information Act Web site, as well as summer
internship Web sites.

This summer – Barnes’ last at the Marshall Center – he was involved
with NASA’s Visiting Researcher Exchange and Outreach Program, designed to
promote collaboration between NASA, industry, and colleges and universities.
Barnes spent the summer working at NASA’s Educator Resource Center in
Huntsville. The Educator Resource Center is a NASA facility that provides
space-related information for educators. He planned and presented numerous
workshops for Huntsville and surrounding area math teachers, showing them
how to use NASA’s vast education resources to support their efforts in the

Barnes not only provided motivation and information to teachers.
Some of their enthusiasm rubbed off on him as well. “The exchanges with the
teachers motivated me the most,” he says. “It let me see first-hand that
there’s a broad scope of people nationwide, even worldwide, that are
committed to education.”

And teachers are not the only group Barnes was able to motivate.
During the summer, he took NASA’s educational message to the Huntsville
community – and the next generation of students. He has spoken to church
and youth groups about opportunities available with NASA, as well as his own
experiences in internship programs at the Marshall Center.

“Brian has been a real inspiration to follow through all these
programs,” says Alicia Beam of NASA’s Education Programs Department. “He
has taken full advantage of the opportunities available to him, and they
have taken him very far.”

Given Barnes’ track record and passion for education, it’s no
surprise that his mother and two uncles are professional educators. Barnes
has learned – from his family, teachers and mentors at NASA – the importance
of education and the value of leading by example. Soon, he may be the one
asking his students that daunting question: “What did you do for your summer