No Boundaries — Project-based Competition for Students

No Boundaries competition logo
No Boundaries, a USA TODAY education initiative in collaboration with NASA, encourages students to explore careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Students explore STEM careers through stimulating project-based learning and team competition. No Boundaries targets students in grades 7-12 and is designed as a team-centered cooperative learning project. No Boundaries is cross-curricular and requires minimal teacher preparation. It aligns to national standards and includes assessment rubrics. Students who submit their final No Boundaries career presentation projects to the 2011 National No Boundaries Competition are eligible to win up to $2,000 in cash awards for themselves and $500 for their teacher or sponsor. They will receive VIP passes to visit a NASA facility. Winners may be asked to present their work to NASA.

For more information, visit the competition website.

NES Chat With NASA Scientist Dr. Joel S. Levine

NASA Explorer Schools invites K-12 students to join a live chat on Jan. 21 from 2 – 3 p.m. EST with Dr. Joel S. Levine. Dr. Levine is the Chief Scientist of the ARES Mars Airplane Mission, and will answer questions about the the development of a robotic, rocket-powered airplane that will fly through the atmosphere of Mars to search for evidence of life by looking for trace gases of biogenic origin. 

Join the chat at

An archive of the chat will be posted shortly after the chat ends.

Voting Open for This Year's NASA OPTIMUS PRIME Student Video Contest

Optimus PrimeTeachers, are you interested in incorporating video technologies into student learning activities? Here’s a great way to show your students examples of student-created videos that support learning.

OPTIMUS PRIME is more than just a well-recognized name from TV and movies: it is a great analogy for NASA technology transfer and, therefore, an excellent teaching tool. OPTIMUS PRIME began in space and transformed itself in order to come to Earth. OPTIMUS PRIME goes undetected and helps people while protecting them. Similarly, NASA technologies, though designed for space applications, are often modified and transformed to go into everyday products used on Earth; they often help people but still go undetected.

The OPTIMUS PRIME Spinoff Award promotes NASA spinoffs, recognizes innovation through technology transfer, and promotes innovative communication of spinoff stories to the public through video. The OPTIMUS PRIME Spinoff Award both acknowledges the contribution of both NASA innovators and the companies that spun off NASA technology for commercial applications and educates America’s youth about the benefits of NASA spinoff technology.

To watch and vote for your favorite student video in this year’s competition, go to

The deadline for casting your vote is Feb. 6, 2011.

OPTIMUS PRIME is a trademark of Hasbro and is used with permission. © 2010 Hasbro. All Rights Reserved.

NASA Explorer Schools Project Update

Now that the holidays are over, it’s time to get back to academics by taking advantage of the wealth of NASA-based classroom resources and learning opportunities that we can provide. NES will offer your students monthly chats that feature scientists, researchers and engineers.

Our next chat is scheduled for Friday, Jan. 21 at 2:00 p.m. EST. We also will offer another series of live electronic professional development webinars for educators. We look forward to having you or your school participate again this spring. And if you are not an NES participant, join now!

Education Innovation — Google Science Fair

Google science fair logoOn Jan. 11, 2011, Google launched the inaugural Google Science Fair. Google has partnered with CERN, National Geographic, Scientific American and the LEGO Group to create this new STEM competition. This is a global competition open to any student aged 13-18, and students may enter as individuals or as teams of up to three. There is no entry fee. Registrations and submissions will be made online. The Science Fair will culminate in a celebratory event at Google headquarters in California in July 2011, where finalists will compete for internships, scholarships and prizes in front of a panel of celebrity scientist judges, including Nobel Laureates and household names.

Submissions are due by April 4, 2011. To sign up for free resource kits for your classroom or school, please visit the Global Science fair website.

NASA Now: The Mechanics of Solar Panels

NASA Now logo

Solar energy is the primary source of power for today’s NASA missions. New solar technologies can improve space-based energy systems for human and robotic spacecraft missions. NASA solar technologies demand that deployed solar energy systems be as efficient and as lightweight as possible. Researchers at NASA are pushing the limits of solar energy efficiency and weight by creating new materials that enhance solar energy system performance. Technologies for space-based applications also provide Earth-based benefits, helping to drive down the cost of solar energy with more efficient systems.

This week, Jeremiah McNatt, electrical engineer at NASA’s Glenn Research Center, demonstrates how solar cells are made and used on the International Space Station.

NASA Now Promotion Video
(Click on the video window below and then press your spacebar to start/stop the video.)

Dining on the International Space Station

Commander Scott Kelly preparing dinner on the International Space StationOne of the most frequently asked questions of astronauts is about how and what they eat while in space. Expedition 26 Commander Scott Kelly recently made an informative video aboard the space station showing the food and beverage area, how food is prepared, menu options, and how they eat.
Think about dehydrated beef stew, asparagus (it floated away during filming) and lemonade! Yum!

Geography Trivia From Space

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, Expedition 26 commander, uses a still camera to photograph the topography of a point on Earth from a window in the Cupola of the International Space Station.Have you ever wondered what various geographic locations on Earth would look like from space? 

Commander Scott Kelly is living aboard the International Space Station for nearly six months for Expeditions 25 and 26. During this time, he will be capturing images of Earth for scientific observation. Through these snapshots, Commander Kelly will share his view from space and engage the public by a virtual journey around the world via a geography trivia game on Twitter.

2010 NASA Spinoff

Spinoff Cover showing view of Earth from shuttleEach year, NASA produces a publication that highlights NASA spinoff technologies. Its articles show ways NASA research and technology have impacted our world. NASA Explorer Schools teachers can use these very interesting features when presenting NES modules. Students looking for a research topic or possible project area may find one of the spinoffs to be the perfect topic.

The 2010 Spinoff publication can be found at

Link to the NES Virtual Campus home page.

Astronomy Night at Dr. Albert Einstein Academy

School's Star Party bannerOn the clear autumn night of Nov. 19, approximately 250 students and parents at Dr. Albert Einstein Academy, School #29, circulated among four activity stations relating to astronomy. The stations included telescope viewings of the moon, Jupiter and its moons, a virtual night sky tour in the planetarium, and two learning activity tables.
At the end of the evening, the night’s success was evident by the large number of parents and children who lingered, reluctant to leave. In fact, several parents asked when the next Astronomy Night is scheduled.

To learn more about how NASA Explorer Schools educator Tracy Espiritu and the teachers at the academy pulled off this successful astronomy night, read the Astronomy Night at School 29 post in the Ideas for family night events post in the ~Other NASA-related Activities I’ve Done forum in NEON.