UAH COE sponsors BEST Experience residential program for area high school students


Dr. Deborah E. Barnhart, ('75 BA English), CEO and Executive Director of the United States Space and Rocket Center.

Rising high school students grades 11 and 12 will have the opportunity to participate in The BEST Experience (Be an Engineering STudent), a week-long residential program sponsored by The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) College of Engineering.

The BEST Experience will give area students an idea of what it's like to be an engineer for a week, June 19-24 on the UAH campus. The guest speaker will be Dr. Deborah E. Barnhart ('75 BA English), CEO and Executive Director of the United States Space and Rocket Center (USSRC), on Monday, June 20. The BEST Experience Dinner begins at 6 p.m., in the Shelby Center for Science and Technology (room 301). At approximately 6:40 p.m., Dr. Shankar Mahalingam, Dean of the UAH College of Engineering will introduce Barnhart. After her talk, Barnhart will conduct a brief Q&A session.

"The idea behind the BEST Experience is to put engineering tools and experiments into the hands of high-school students such that they can learn what engineering at a university is like. We want them to see for themselves that majoring in engineering is very rewarding, challenging, and fun," said Dr. Jennifer English, Associate Dean and Professor (ECE) of the UAH College of Engineering.

Students attending the BEST Experience program will attend engineering classes, perform hands-on experiments in labs, participate in UAH student life activities, work on project teams, live in the residence halls and eat at campus dining facilities.

Additional BEST Experience highlights include:

  • Attending engineering fundamentals classes that focus on the principles of design, build and test
  • Learn about a variety of engineering disciplines from aerospace to optical
  • Work in engineering design teams and in labs on a variety of hands-on experiments
  • Meet engineering faculty, alumni, students, and engineers in the community
  • Participate in UAH student life events
  • Attending lectures and presentations given by professional engineers from the Huntsville area
  • Get career and job placement advice from UAH Career Services

All students participating in the program will be monitored by UAH student counselors at all times including in the residence halls, at meals and activities, and during free time. UAH student counselors have received special training for the BEST Experience residential program.

Dr. Deborah E. Barnhart became the Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director of USSRC in December 2010. The USSRC is the official Visitor Center for NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, an affiliate of the Smithsonian, and the showcase for Redstone Arsenal and defense programs, including energy.

Home to the world renowned U.S. Space Camp®, U.S. Space Academy®, Aviation Challenge®, and Robotics Camp, the center is Alabama's leading tourist attraction. Leading technology initiatives in aerospace and defense are showcased along with international space artifacts including the world's only complete full‐scale Space Shuttle stack and the National Historic Landmark Apollo Saturn V moon rocket.

Barnhart's career spans three decades of service in commercial industry, government, aerospace and defense. A retired Navy Captain (0‐6), she was one of the first ten women assigned to duty aboard ships and commanded five units in her 26 year career.

She was Vice President of three Dow 30 aerospace and defense companies, serving in manufacturing, business development, program and research management, and congressional lobbying for Honeywell International, McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing), and United Technologies Aerospace.

Barnhart was recently appointed to the Smithsonian Affiliations Advisory Council. She is a recipient of NASA's Distinguished Public Service Medal, the highest form of recognition awarded by NASA to a non‐government individual. She is a member of the Board of Managers of the Air Force Museum Foundation and Trustee on the Board of The University of Alabama in Huntsville Foundation. She currently serves as Governor Robert Bentley's appointee to the Alabama Space Authority Task Force.

Barnhart earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from The University of Alabama in Huntsville, Master of Business Administration degree from The University of Maryland College Park, PhD from Vanderbilt University, and a second Master of Business Administration degree from The Massachusetts Institute of Technology-Sloan School of Management. She resides in Huntsville, AL and Clearwater Beach, FL.

For specific UAH BEST Experience Program information, please call director, Dr. Jennifer English, or assistant director Jacob Kerstiens at 256.824.6877.


Dr. Jennifer English
UAH College of Engineering