IF YOU GO

What: Traveling Space Museum


When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 18


Where: Navajo Technical University’s Information Technology Building, located on Lower Point Road in Crownpoint


Cost: Free and open to the public

Farmington — Navajo Technical University is ready to blast forward with help from the Traveling Space Museum.

The museum will set up space equipment and its full-scale flight simulators on Sept. 18 at NTU's Information Technology Building in Crownpoint.

The visit will help the university, formerly Navajo Technical College, celebrate its recent name change.

There will be exhibits, and children can try their skills at operating an F-117 flight simulator, a space toilet, a Hovercraft and a multi-access simulator, which spins and rotates a person at the same time.

"They've been road-tested and kid-approved all over the country," said Ivor Dawson, the museum's founder and president, in a telephone interview from Los Angeles.

Dawson said this is the first time the museum will visit the Navajo Nation. The visit is part of the museum's initiative to provide educational outreach to tribes.

The museum started in 1998 as an idea to inspire students to study science and math. Since then, it has traveled to schools across the country and secured a contract with NASA as an outreach education vendor.

The museum's visit will provide students and the public the opportunity to learn about space exploration and the career opportunities higher education can provide, said Alice Carron, educational outreach director at NTU.

Navajo Technical University student Jaron Edsitty removes a part of the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environmental Explorer satellite he created from a PDF
Navajo Technical University student Jaron Edsitty removes a part of the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environmental Explorer satellite he created from a PDF file. Edsitty used a Zcorp printer to construct his model.Courtesy of Navajo Technical University (Courtesy of Navajo Technical University)

Daniel Vandever, NTU's public information officer, said the university and NASA have developed a unique relationship that allows students to intern at NASA centers throughout the U.S.

For several years, students have completed internships at NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., and at Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.

One of those students is Jaron Edsitty, who worked on the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environmental Explorer.

Because NTU classrooms use cutting-edge technology, Edsitty was able to stay in Crownpoint while completing work on the satellite, Vandever said. Edsitty also watched LADEE's launch Friday at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

The visit by the Traveling Space Museum is part of the four-day "Birth of a University Celebration" to commemorate NTU's new name.

In July, the Navajo Nation Council passed legislation to change the name. Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly signed the bill into law July 29.

Along with the name change, the university is now authorized to establish its own institutional review board to oversee student research in the field of social science. The Navajo Nation Human Research Board will continue to manage medical and clinical research.

The name change is the latest step in NTU's evolution.

The higher education institution started in 1979 as the Navajo Skill Center to offer workforce trade programs.

Jaron Edsitty, a digital manufacturing major at Navajo Technical University, constructs a complete model of the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environmental
Jaron Edsitty, a digital manufacturing major at Navajo Technical University, constructs a complete model of the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environmental Explorer satellite. (Courtesy of Navajo Technical University)

After increasing the number of programs and expanding its mission, the school's name switched to Crownpoint Institute of Technology in 1985.

In 2006, the council approved changing the name to Navajo Technical College because of the development of several new associate degree programs.

This fall semester, a record 1,926 students enrolled at the school.

"Birth of a University Celebration" will also mark "what we've done and where we're going," Vandever said.

In addition to the museum's visit, the university will host Culture Day on Sept. 19 with sheep butchering, storytelling, performances and culture activities.

Student Day is Sept. 20 and includes campus tours, a comedy show, a talent show and country western dance. The celebration concludes Sept. 21 with a fun walk and run starting at 8 a.m.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 and nsmith@daily-times.com. Follow her @nsmithdt on Twitter.