RALEIGH — Four North Carolina teachers will get new tools and technology to help teach about outer space and inspire and empower students in the field of space exploration, including H. Lee Hurst of Piedmont Middle School, according to the office of N.C Governor Roy Cooper.

The space education bundles are valued at $5,000 each and include a large Mars or Moon learning map, Mimio Mybot educational robotics system, a Lunar or Mars Pro Globe with augmented reality technology, and other resources.

Educators teaching 5th-8th grade could apply for the competition through the North Carolina Business Committee for Education (NCBCE), a business-led, education non-profit within the Governor’s Office. The Moon and Mars Bundles were donated by Public Consulting Group and the Aldrin Family Foundation.

Winning teachers include: Vanessa Lail of Grandview Middle School (Hickory Public Schools), Andrea Gladden of East Burke Middle School (Burke County Schools), Elizabeth Sanderson of Hope Middle School (Pitt County Schools) and Hurst, who represents Piedmont Middle School and Union County Public Schools.

“Teachers can be the spark that inspires students to follow a promising career path like space exploration. It’s exciting to see students interested in science and math because we need more young people in our workforce pursuing STEM careers,” Governor Roy Cooper said in a statement.

A total of 27 educators applied statewide for the competition by writing two paragraphs about what space exploration means to them and what winning these bundles would provide to their counties.

“As part of our 35th Anniversary, PCG employees who live, work, and play in North Carolina are proud to support public school teachers and students who are excited about space. Whether they go on to NC State University or get a technical certificate from Duke Energy‘s Apprentice Program, learning about space exploration and colonization is going to prepare these students for the future. It is very exciting,” said Tony McLean Brown of Public Consulting Group in the statement.

The contest grew out of an online conference sponsored by NCBCE last year to help educators with remote learning. The Aldrin Family Foundation presented at the NC Student Connect Conferenceswhere they provided useful knowledge and tools for NC STEM teachers on how to incorporate space exploration into their classes to increase interactivity and interest. The session left teachers across North Carolina excited and interested in finding more ways to engage their students in learning about space.

The Aldrin Family Foundation, along with Public Consulting Group, decided to award four of the large bundles to North Carolina STEM teachers.

Space-related careers include astronauts, engineers, space suit designers, satellite technicians, communications experts and other STEM (science technology engineering and math) jobs.