Ed Smylie
Ed Smylie

NASA hero to address July 29 PREP ceremony

By Kris Rodriguez, Public Affairs Specialist, and Marianne McBride Lewis, Associate Director of Public Affairs

(July 28, 2005)--In today's pop-culture world of Star Trek and superheroes, many children grow up emulating fictional characters like Han Solo, Batman and ElastaGirl.

At 1 p.m., Friday, July 29 in the Convocation Center at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) 1604 Campus, more than 1,300 San Antonio-area youngsters participating in the San Antonio Pre-Freshman Engineering Program (PREP) will be treated to stories and educational encouragement from a real life, non-fiction hero.

Retired NASA engineer and crew system division chief Ed Smylie is this year's closing assembly keynote speaker.

In April 1970, Smylie led a group of engineers that helped save the lives of the three Apollo 13 astronauts after one of the astronauts spoke the now familiar words, "Houston, we've had a problem." In 1995, Tom Hanks starred in the movie "Apollo 13," said to be one of the greatest space movies of all time.

As NASA crew system division chief, Smylie's engineers conceived a modification to the carbon dioxide system that saved the lives of astronauts Jim Lovell, Fred Haise and Jack Swigert. For their efforts, Smylie recently received the GlobalSpec Great Moments in Engineering Award on the 35th anniversary of the shuttle launch for the team's engineering ingenuity.

Smylie agreed to speak at this year's closing ceremonies at the suggestion of his daughter, Susan, whose son, 12-year-old Samuel Schmidt, is a San Antonio home-schooled student and a member of this summer's PREP class.

Founded in 1979 at UTSA, the mathematics-based academic program is held each summer at participating colleges and universities in San Antonio. Designed for students in grades six through 11, PREP promotes high achievement and provides students with the necessary reinforcement to successfully pursue higher education and careers in mathematics, science, engineering and technology.

With a focus on building a high-quality, diverse 21st century workforce, women and members of minority groups traditionally underrepresented in the areas of science and engineering serve as special target groups.

Now in its 27th year, UTSA PREP is an academic program which brings middle and high school students to local college campuses for eight weeks of science, engineering, mathematics and technology training over three summers. The program stresses the development of abstract reasoning and problem-solving skills through a series of hands-on math, physics, computer science, logic, technical writing and engineering courses.

Located at eight partner colleges and university campuses throughout San Antonio, the program operated this summer from June 13 to July 29. Over the years, more than 11,000 students have completed at least one summer component. Participating schools include UTSA, Palo Alto College, Northwest Vista, St. Philip's College, San Antonio College, Our Lady of the Lake University, University of the Incarnate Word and St. Mary's University.

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