New Robotic Lunar Lander Prototype Relates to NES Teaching Materials

Prototype lunar roverA new generation of small, smart, versatile robotic landers will aid in the exploration of airless bodies such as the moon and asteroids. The design is based on cutting-edge technology, which allows precision landing in high-risk but high-priority areas. This technology enables NASA to achieve scientific and exploration goals in previously unexplored locations.

These new landers are a great tie-in to two NES Virtual Campus teaching modules: 
   • Math and Science @ Work: Lunar Surface Instrumentation module. 
   • Lunar Nautics: Designing a Mission to Live and Work on the Moon. 
Connections like this will help your students see that the things they learn in school have a real-world connection to what is happening at NASA right now! 

Read more about this exciting new prototype in the NASA Explorer Schools NEON forums Math and Science @ Work: Lunar Surface Instrumentation module and Lunar Nautics: Designing a Mission to Live and Work on the Moon.

Students Modify Lunar Plant Growth Chamber Activity

Lunar Plant Growth Chamber lesson cover pageDo you want to learn how NASA Explorer Schools educator April Bidwell’s class at Wewahitchka Elementary School turned the Lunar Plant Growth Chamber into a full classroom experiment? 

Students planted basil seeds, which had flown on the International Space Station, in three different everyday items. The items included diapers, an old tennis shoe and a wasp nest. Which do you think grew seeds the best? Find out in NEON

Read more about this exciting activity at Register, log in, join the NES group and navigate to the Engineering Design Challenge: Plant Growth Chamber forum. Look for Bidwell’s complete write-up, entitled “Fifth-Grade Class Carries out Lunar Plant Growth Chamber Challenge.”

Do this NES activity in your classroom to find out how creative your own students can be. Log it, and you’ll be on your way to an all-expenses-paid NASA summer research experience as part of our Recognition Program!

NASA Research Team Reveals Moon Has Earth-like Core

Artist concept showing lunar core. Solid inner core surrounded by a fluid outer core surrounded by a partial melt area.Are you looking for an extension for the Lunar Surface Instrumentation Content Module on the NASA Explorer Schools Virtual Campus? Bring current NASA discoveries into your classroom with this article!

State-of-the-art seismological techniques applied to Apollo-era data suggest our moon has a core similar to Earth’s. This new discovery tells us that the moon may have created and maintained its own strong magnetic field at one point. The study details how the seismological instruments used for lunar exploration have unveiled new information regarding the moon’s core.

Read more about this exciting new finding in the NES Math and Science @ Work – Lunar Surface Instrumentation forum in NEON. Register, log in, join the NASA Explorer Schools group and find the forum. The complete write-up on this discovery is available there.

NASA Explorer Schools Recognition Opportunity

A computer graphic of a certificate with a red ribbonWould you like to receive recognition from NASA for your participation in the NASA Explorer Schools Project?  Would you like to have the unique opportunity to participate in an all-expenses-paid, multi-day research experience at a NASA center?  Are you committed to promoting and inspiring your students’ interest in STEM subjects?  If so, then you should apply for NES recognition!

How do you become eligible to apply for NES recognition?  
You will be invited to apply for NES recognition once you have completed one of each of the core NES activities: use one NES teaching material; participate in one electronic professional development session; and use one NASA Now event with your students.  To receive credit, you must complete the online survey associated with each activity. NES will notify teachers when they are eligible to submit their application.

What is the recognition application? 
The recognition application is 14 items in total – and asks you to document your experiences while participating in the NES project, explain your students’ interaction with NES activities and describe your innovative use of NES materials to promote student engagement in STEM education. The application is available for viewing on the Virtual Campus, however, only eligible teachers will be able to fill out and submit an application.

What opportunities are available for recognized teachers? 
NES offers successful applicants the chance to participate in a multi-day, research experience at a NASA center this summer.  In these unique opportunities, teachers interact with NASA researchers and scientists about NASA’s current missions and research and develop strategies to incorporate this information into classroom learning.  Descriptions of the opportunities can be found on the teacher recognition application. 
What is the NES teacher recognition timeline?
   • Early February: Eligible teachers will be notified. Notification continues through the end of Mar., as teachers become eligible.
   • April 1: Final submission day for teacher applications
   • Early May: Successful applicants are notified

What kind of support is available for applicants throughout this process?
NES staff are available to answer questions and provide support through the help desk e-mail, phone number or live office hours.  You are also encouraged to visit the NES NEON forums and read through the discussions where teachers and NES staff post stories about classroom best practices and innovative use of project materials. This is an excellent opportunity to gain ideas for your own classroom, as well as share your best practices with the NES community (plus, participating in the NEON discussions will earn points on your recognition application). 

For more information regarding the NES recognition opportunities and to see a planning version of the application, visit the Recognition Opportunities section on the NES Virtual Campus.

Family Night: Involve Parents in Student Projects

NASA Explorer Schools educator Colleen Orman from Norfolk Public Schools has some ideas for ways to kick off science fair projects by incorporating the investigation process during the school’s family nights sessions.

Parents and students were guided through the complete experimental design process in a hands-on manner. Students created a straw hoop plane and tested to see if the placement of the hoops affected the distance the plane would fly. Besides having a great deal of fun, both parents and students learned about the steps to create a successful science fair investigation.

The activity was an investigational process, which reinforces NES materials. She has used various flight-related investigations to support previous family night events. 

Orman continues to focus on flight activities to enhance her program’s NASA connection. She says, “Our parents appreciate learning about investigations so they can help their children.”

What a great way to involve parents in their student’s learning! Colleen has logged this entry in the Virtual Campus and is now one step closer to participating in the NES Recognition Program!

NASA Now-Shuttle Engineering Design Challenge–Guidance, Navigation and Flight Control

In this installment of NASA Now, you’ll meet Guidance, Navigation and Flight Controls engineer George Hatcher, who talks about the complex system needed to fly the space shuttle at extreme speeds and in extreme environments. Learn about the instruments used to inform the shuttle of its location, how to get where it wants to go, and what to do to change direction. The program focuses on the technology and physics of this complex spacecraft.

Link to this episode of NASA Now (requires log-in credentials).

Link to the NES Virtual Campus.

NASA Now Promotion Video

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

Balloonsat High Altitude Flight Student Competition

Balloon Sat LogoThe BHALF competition is open to teams of four or more students in grades 9 to 12 from high schools and community groups throughout the United States, District of Columbia, and U.S. territories. Teams develop a flight experiment or technology demonstration and submit a proposal for consideration by a panel of NASA scientists and engineers. The panel will select eight teams to design and construct their project for competition. The eight projects will be sent to the near space environment of the stratosphere, or nearly 100,000 feet (~ 50.5 km) above Earth, during several NASA weather balloon launches in Northeastern, Ohio.Proposals are due February 11, 2011. 

For more information, check out the BHALF website.

Link to the NES Virtual Campus.

Video Webchat With Astronaut Ron Garan on Feb. 8

Astronaut Ron GaranOn Feb. 8, from 11:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. EST, a special Digital Learning Network event with astronaut Ron Garan will be held. Garan is scheduled to launch to the International Space Station in March of this year. During the special webcast event, Garan will discuss his upcoming mission and answer questions from students. Students across the country will be able to watch the DLiNfo Channel’s webcast, and they will be able to e-mail their questions for Garan to answer during the program.

Join the webcast by following the link in the DLiNfo Channel Webcasts portion of the page at the DLN website.

Potlatch Students Recycle Water for the Moon!

Are you looking for a classroom project that helps students learn about water purification as they work in groups? Like NES educator Laura Wommack, you should check out the Water Limitation Management Water Recycling activity, an extension of the Engineering Design Challenge, Water Filtration.

Laura Wommack, NES educator at Potlatch Junior-Senior High School, completed the Waste Limitation Management Water Recycling Design Challenge with her eighth-grade students. This NASA project challenges students build a water purification system that could be used on the moon. Learn how she used this contest to motivate her students. 

Read about Wommack’s experiences in the NES NEON forum, Engineering Design Challenge: Plant Growth Chamber. Look for the title “Eighth Grade Students Complete Waste Limitation Management Water Recycling Activity.”

Learn more about the Waste Limitation Management Water Recycling Design Challenge at the Teachers Corner.

Watch Out for Solar Sail Flares!

Artist concept of a solar sail in space.On Jan. 21st, NanoSail-D unfurled a 10 m2 sail 650 km above Earth’s surface, becoming the first solar sail to orbit our planet. For the next few months it will skim the top of the atmosphere, slowly descending in a test of ‘drag sails’ as a means of de-orbiting space junk. If all goes as planned, the spacecraft will disintegrate like a meteor in April or May of 2011, dispersing harmlessly more than 1100 km high.

Meanwhile, sky watchers should be alert for flares lasting 5 to 10 seconds outshining the brightest stars in the sky, mimicking a supernova, perhaps even casting faint shadows at your feet.

For more information about NanoSail-D click here.

(Full article located at Science@NASA, by Dr. Tony Phillips)

Link to the NES Virtual Campus home page.