EDUCATION NEWS & TIPS

NASA STEM Engagement News:https://www.nasa.gov/stem/news.html

JPL Education News:https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/edu/news

TEACHERS: The My NASA Data website has a LOT of mini-lessons to support your classroom instruction in the natural sciences! See: https://mynasadata.larc.nasa.gov!

Smithsonian Educational Programs for Early Learners!Smithsonian Magazine recently posted a piece about 13 innovative programs for early learners at downtown DC’s SI Units. There are a number of wonderful opportunities for helping visiting families inspire the children’s learning. I’m personally familiar with the National Air and Space Museum’s “Flights of Fancy Story Time’ (offered at both NASM sites, downtown and the Udvar-Hazy Center) and “Soar Together at Air and Space.” Check out the Magazine’s article here: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/blogs/smithsonian-education/2024/05/07 ; it contains links to get more information about specific programs. [Congratulations to A and D!]

NASA Student Art Contest: Esther Lee, a student at Washington State University, was awarded the top prize in the 2024 NASA Student Art Contest, which was hosted by NASA’s Langley Research Center. Her piece was entitled, “Beyond Imagination,” inspired by her own experiences in childhood. It shows a young girl and her puppy flying in a NASA-labeled box -errr aircraft - of her imagination. There many other entries of note; for more information on the contest and a view of Ms. Lee’s winner, see here. Wouldn’t it make a great T-shirt!?

EAA’s Ray Aviation Scholarship Program has now seen 500 scholarship recipients earn their private pilot certificates. The James C. and Joan L. Ray Foundation provides significant financial support to help deserving students cover their ever-higher flight training costs. History has shown that our Nation’s future pilots and astronauts often get their pilot licenses at a very young age, some even before they can legally drive a car, so here’s a “Hats Off” to the Rays for their generous support! For more information on the EAA and the Ray Foundation, see: https://www.avweb.com/aviation-news/eaa-scholarship-flight-program-has-launched-500-private-pilots.

Europa Clipper Intern Program: The first group of interns for the Europa Clipper program have been selected; an intern group will be selected each year for the duration of the mission (2034). For more information, see: https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/nasa-selects-students-for-europa-clipper-intern-program.

NASA Supports STEM Student Success: “NASA has awarded $3.9 million to 13 teams at under-resourced academic institutions across the country, to support collaborative projects with NASA that offer students mentorship and career development in science, technology, engineering, and math.” For more information about the Science Mission Directorate’s Bridge Program, see: https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/nasa-grants-support-academic-collaborations-for-stem-student-success.

FAA Student Challenge!  “The FAA announced on March 27 that it has launched the “2024 FAA Data Challenge.” The object of the program is to invite university students to explore possibilities for innovating the information and data associated with the U.S. National Airspace System (NAS). The competition will be implemented by HeroX, self-described as an “open marketplace for crowdsourcing innovation and human ingenuity.” HeroX was founded in 2013 by entrepreneur Christian Cotichini and XPrize founder Peter Diamandis.” For more information on the Data Challenge, see: https://www.herox.com/FAADataChallenge2024?utm_source=FAA&utm_medium=Miscellaneous&utm_campaign=General+Outreach.

Alex Trebek Medal for Geographic Literacy: Didja know there was such a thing? The long-time Jeopardy host, a patriotic Canadian, was a very good friend to the Royal Canadian Geographical Society (RCGS) and their efforts to promote geographical literacy in students. Canada is a big place, after all, and managing its resources wisely requires geographically-oriented new hires, well-versed in Geographical Information System processes and hardware. The Esri Canada company is a leading provider of GIS, and works with the RCGS to promote geographical literacy. An Esri Canada team recently was awarded the RCGS Alex Trebek Medal for their efforts in K-12 geography education support.

WVU Faculty and Students and 3D-Printing: One of the technologies likely to be needed for extended Space missions is on-site 3-D printing of key equipment component. That raises the question: How will the printing be affected in free-fall or lower-g environments? Research into the issue has been underway at the West Viriginia University for several years, using titania foam, a material useful for water purification and radiation shielding. Not only are the research results useful, the work was an excellent hands-on training experience for the students involved. For more about this two-fer project, see: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2023/10/231030110812.htm.

NASA’s Graphic Novel Series for Girls: First Woman: NASA’s Promise for Humanity, is an on-line illustrated story about Callie and her robotic sidekick, RT. The first issue, Dream to Reality, follows her trailblazing path to be the first woman on the Moon. Check it out here: https://www.nasa.gov/calliefirst! There is also an Interactive Mission with RT at the site, along with educational activities related to the story. 

NASA Science Mission Directorate’s Share the Science webpage is an excellent resource for news, education, and citizen science. SMD covers Astronomy, Heliophysics, Planetary Science, and Earth Observation, so there is a LOT of useful information on, and/or accessible from, this website: https://science.nasa.gov. CHECK IT OUT!

Check out NASA’s Explore Flight “Museum in a Box!” For everyone, especially students in grades 5-12: https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/atoms/files/museum-in-a-box-combined-lessons-02-09-11.pdf

NASA Supports New STEM Learning Projects: “NASA is awarding more than $3.8 million to 21 museums, science centers, and other informal education institutions for projects designed to bring the excitement of space science to communities across the nation and broaden student participation in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).” For more information on the recipients and their programs, see: https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-selects-21-new-learning-projects-to-engage-students-in-stem.

NASA Learning Initiatives: The Learning Lunchboxes Program: NASA’s latest education initiative combines nutrition with learning about STEM subjects, using the upcoming Artemis Moon program as its backdrop. The program will showcase “five Space-focused learning activities that showcase the diversity of STEM at NASA. Thirty-thousand lunchboxes will be distributed via local food banks nationwide. The project also includes “digital extension resources.” What a nice two-fer! For more info, see: https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-administrator-to-launch-artemis-learning-lunchbox-initiative.

NASA’s Universe of Learning: NASA’s Astrophysics missions are the theme for the Universe of Learning program, which “connects the public to the data, discoveries, and experts that span NASA’s Astrophysics missions. Our team is made up of scientists, engineers, and educators who have direct connections to these missions.” The program has projects and events “designed to inspire engagement and learning in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Once learners get started, they often return to unlock more secrets of the universe – and perhaps even chart their own path to become a scientist or an engineer.” Find out more about this program here: https://www.universe-of-learning.org/about-us. Check it out with your students, (grand)children, and friends!

STEM Education as a Path to a Productive Career: Many career paths are open to the student who becomes proficient in STEM topics. Many paths lead to Academia, but that is not the only area in which to have a rewarding career. STEM also leads to business, military, advocacy, and other areas not intimately-related to STEM.

The American Geophysical Union publication, EOS, has an article about seventeen examples of how a STEM background allowed people to pursue their career dreams in a variety of fields. 

This is really good info to share with a young person old enough to ponder their future!

For a summary, see here; for the article itself, see here.

The “NASA at Home” web pages have e-books, podcasts, virtual tours, and more: https://www.nasa.gov/specials/nasaathome/index.html. Also, check out ten NASA STEM learning activities you can do with you (grand)children!

Rocketry Lesson Plans from NASA are available at: https://www.nasa.gov/audience/foreducators/rocketry/lessonplans/index.html#.X-dS4NhKhM8

NASA’s Radio JOVE Project: Build your own radio telescope, share your observations, and learn more about Jupiter – see: https://radiojove.gsfc.nasa.gov!

The Juno mission page is here; “Radio JOVE,” with a project and lesson plans is here.

Lowell Observatory Videos: Lowell Observatory, in Flagstaff, Arizona, has a library of interesting and informative videos for those interested in Astronomy, and even a set of Science Challenges for Kids. Check them out at: https://lowell.edu/discover/image-video-library.

NASA Virtual Reality Program: NASA recently released a VR software program that will showcase their new Space Launch System (SLS). Check it out at: https://www.nasa.gov/exploration/systems/sls/virtual-reality-program-immersive-sls-experience

NASA Virtual Field Trip (for the Commercial Crew Program): https://www.nasa.gov/feature/virtual-field-trips-take-students-inside-nasa-s-commercial-crew-program

NASA Virtual Appearances: Pre-school to college classes, libraries and museums, Scouts, professional and technical organizations, and community groups can request a virtual appearance who can cover a variety of topics, including: An overview of NASA, Space exploration, How NASA improves our quality of life, Aeronautics research (don’t forget NASA’s first “A”!), NASA Center overviews, and mission/program briefings. Check it out at: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/DUJwdHZRq7b.

TIP: Locksmith Linus Yale and Spectral Analysis: The “Yale Lock,” is an ingenious cylinder-and-pins lock familiar to most of you. The lock opens when the cylinder into which the key is inserted is turned, but there are a series of spring-loaded two-piece pins that project across the cylinder boundary that prevent the cylinder from turning. The key’s serrated upper edge is designed to allow the key to enter the lock, and lift each set of pins just enough to match the edge of the cylinder. If, and only if, ALL of the pins are in the correct passion, the cylinder will turn freely. A picture is worth 1000 words; see here: https://www.padlocks.co.uk/advice/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/padlock-pins.jpg.

When light reflects off a surface, not all wavelengths are reflected equally. Red objects reflect more red light than blue, etc. By looking at many reflected wavelengths, the substance doing the reflected can be identified; see the three spectra (soil, healthy vegetation, and clear water) here for an example: https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Spectral-reflectance-curves-of-different-land-cover-types-Modified-from_fig4_245538996.

Note that the line for “healthy vegetation” is an exaggerated version of the top of a Yale Lock key. The identification is complete ONLY if all wavelengths reflect the amount indicated, just as the lock will turn ONLY if ALL the pins in it are lifted enough so that the division between the two parts of a pin aligns with the cylinder edge.

Keep this tip in mind if you are ever called on to explain how the reflection spectrum of something can allow us to identify what it is – from a distance.