An Idea for a Lunar Rover Project

Clarendon Elementary SchoolPatricia Smeyers, a teacher from Secaucus Board of Education, has a great idea for a Lunar Rover Project. Students design a new lunar rover for the future. They create their designs using cloud-based 3-D modeling software and present their engineered 3-D model and research.

The students used an online educational collaborative website to create their presentation and used a wikispace to house their projects.

This activity reinforces the best practice — use of technology to facilitate student collaboration — while incorporating NES materials and NASA opportunities. 

Read the article in NEON to find out about specific websites and programs supporting the educational goals of this project.

NASA Now: Human Research on the ISS

NASA Now logoLiz Warren, NASA Johnson Space Center operations lead for the International Space Station Medical Project, discusses why exercise and nutrition are important to maintaining good health on Earth and even more important to astronauts on the International Space Station. She also discusses how living in space causes changes in the human body such as loss of bone density, decreased cardiovascular fitness, and muscle atrophy. Astronauts participate in experiments to measure changes in their bodies so that we can prevent those types of changes in the future.

Link to this NASA Now program (requires log-in to the NES Virtual Campus).

Link to the NES Virtual Campus home page.

NASA Now Minute: Human Research on the ISS

Unique Space Image of Alabama Tornado Tracks

An ASTER visible-IR image of tornado damage near Tuscaloosa, AlabamaNASA has released a unique satellite image tracing the damage of a monster EF-4 tornado that tore through Tuscaloosa, Alabama, on April 27th. It combines visible and infrared data to reveal damage unseen in conventional photographs.

“This is the first time we’ve used the ASTER instrument to track the wake of a super-outbreak of tornadoes,” says NASA meteorologist Gary Jedlovec of the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, AL.

For more information and additional images, read the full article.

NASA Now: Nanotechnology and Space

NASA Now logoWhen it comes to taking the next “giant leap” in space exploration, NASA is thinking small — really small – really, really small. In this NASA Now program, Dr. Mike Oye describes how researchers can deliberately order and structure matter at the molecular level to watch amazing new properties emerge.

Dr. Oye is developing applications for energy-harvesting nanowires. Nanowires could be woven into special clothing for an astronaut. As the astronaut moves around, the tiny nanowires within the clothing collect charges produced by the mechanical vibrations of the astronaut’s movement. The resulting electricity can be used to power equipment aboard a spacecraft.

Link to the NES Virtual Campus home page.

NASA Now Minute: Nanotechnology and Space

Snow Goggles and Limiting Sunlight

Inuit Snow GogglesThis is a cool lesson related to MESSENGER’s mission to Mercury and the Inuit people inhabiting the Arctic region. By studying ancient solutions to the issue of excessive sunlight on human vision, students better understand the process of designing solutions to similar problems for MESSENGER.

Students measure their field-of-view then make snow goggles similar to those used by ancient Inuit hunters and determine changes in their field-of-view. Check out this lesson and have a classroom discussion on how MESSENGER uses similar approaches to limit its exposure to intense sunlight as it orbits Mercury.

Read the NEON article to find out more about the lesson ‘Snow Goggles and Limiting Sunlight.’

Link to the NES Virtual Campus home page.

Register for GRAIL MoonKAM

images of moon's surfaceIn fall 2011, NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory, or GRAIL, mission is scheduled to launch twin spacecraft in tandem low-altitude orbits around the moon. The spacecraft will measure the moon’s gravity in unprecedented detail. The mission will answer key questions about the moon’s internal structure and give scientists a better understanding of how our solar system formed. 

The satellites will carry special cameras, dubbed MoonKam, which stands for Moon Knowledge Acquired by Middle school students. During the science phase of the mission, students will send in requests for the cameras to take photos of specific areas on the lunar surface. The images will be posted on the Internet, and students can refer to them as they study highlands, maria and other features of the moon’s topography.

Register at the GRAIL MoonKam website to receive information and resources about this unique opportunity and stay up-to-date with GRAIL MoonKAM news and events.

Math Club Students DRAW on The Air Traffic Control Challenge

Currington Elementary SchoolIf you’re looking for ways to extend the Smart Skies: Line Up With Math module on the NASA Explorer Schools Virtual Campus, check this out. It’s one of many ideas that make the unit come alive.

Students in NES educator Joan Labay-Marquez’s Math Club at Curington Elementary School apply math to real-life problems, seeking the best solution among several possibilities. They defend their choices and explain how they arrived at their solutions. Building on the materials from the NASA Explorer School content module, Smart Skies: Line Up With Math, the students are required to create their own interactive story of an air traffic controller in either an animation or online game. 

Read more about other extension activities, exciting uses of educational technology, and the variety of resources Labay-Marquez incorporated into the Air Traffic Control Challenge in her detailed article in NEON. You’ll also find files provided by Labay-Marquez for you to download and use with your students.

LRO Releases Final Set of Exploration Data

Far side of the moonNASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter team released the final set of data from the mission’s exploration phase along with the first measurements from its new life as a science satellite.

With this fifth release of data, striking new images and maps have been added to the already comprehensive collection of raw lunar data and high-level products, including mosaic images, that LRO made possible. The spacecraft’s seven instruments delivered more than 192 terabytes of data with an unprecedented level of detail. It would take approximately 41,000 typical DVDs to hold the new LRO data set.

Read the NEON article to learn more about how LRO has given us the best view of the moon we’ve ever had and how to incorporate the LRO mission into the activities in NASA Explorer Schools’ On the Moon Educator Guide teaching modules.

Link to the NES Virtual Campus home page.


NASA Explorer Schools Dare Students to Dream

Students presenting their NASA-based research findingsInspiring the next generation of explorers, scientists, engineers and educators to “dream big” was the goal of this year’s NASA Explorer Schools National Student Symposium at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. 

The symposium kicked off May 4 with a welcome dinner in the company of Bob Cabana, Kennedy’s director and a former space shuttle astronaut. About 60 fourth- through 12th-grade students and their teachers listened in awe as Cabana shared a vivid memory of seeing shuttle Endeavour awaiting liftoff on Launch Pad 39A with a remarkable rainbow overhead. Later that day in December 1998, Cabana and his crew would lift off on the 12-day STS-88 mission to begin construction of the International Space Station. 

“Our very first day in orbit, the wake up music was Judy Garland, ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow.’ It brought tears to my eyes,” Cabana said. “Somewhere over the rainbow dreams do come true because that was a dream mission from start to finish.” STS-88 took the first American module called Unity to the station and connected it to the Russian-built Zarya module, beginning the more than 10-year international collaboration and mechanical marvel in space.

The symposium participants were competitively selected after they completed an original investigation focused on existing NASA missions or research interests and presented it to the space agency via the Digital Learning Network. As their reward, they spent four days at the space center touring processing and launch facilities and the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame, as well as participating in educational activities and a career panel question-and-answer session. They also presented their investigations to fellow students and NASA employees.

“Thank you, NASA, for this great opportunity,” said EmmaLee Beason, a fifth-grader from Oceanair Elementary in Norfolk, Va. 

Beason and her classmate, Iyana Stephenson, came up with their growing yeast in balloons experiment using different temperatures of water investigation after their teacher, Colleen Orman, traveled to Yellowstone National Park and taught them about geysers and organisms that thrive in extreme conditions. They found that the yeast organism preferred moderate temperatures, instead of extreme.

When asked what career field she would like to join when she gets a little older, Beason said an astrobiologist or a chef, or perhaps a chef for astronauts. She said working on this investigation taught her a lot about teamwork.

“Let’s say I become a chef and dinner service is in an hour and I’ve run out of a really important ingredient, I have to be able to trust my partner to run out and get that ingredient to finish the main dish,” Beason said. “And in astrobiology, I may need someone to help analyze data and materials.”

Luis Rabelo, a project manager for NASA’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, or EPSCoR, was on hand to listen to the students’ presentations and explained the multitude of career paths the space agency offers, including studying Earth’s climate, the sun, the solar system, or galaxies and black holes, as well as designing and launching rockets and capsules that will travel to low Earth orbit and beyond.

“Keep learning,” Rabelo said. “Continuous learning is so important because science is always changing.”

Fifth-graders Nell Curtin and Hazel Thurston from K.W. Barrett Elementary in Arlington, Va., and their classmates developed a sports game for space, called “Save the World,” using Sir Isaac Newton’s three laws of motion for their investigation. The project was awarded the “NASA Sports Challenge” and will be played aboard the International Space Station later this year, with a few modifications. The goal is for astronauts to gather objects and build devices to save the planet, which actually is just a large, soft ball, from incoming meteorites. 

Thurston ended their presentation with a small piece of advice for the space participants: “Play safe.”

Curtin said if she could ask the astronauts questions after they played, they would be, “Who won?” and “What was the most challenging part?”

Alicia Baturoni, a lead education specialist at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, asked the adults in attendance to think back to where they were when they were in elementary school.

“You’ve got a great head start,” Baturoni told the students. “I hope you are all really proud of yourselves.”

A day later, career panelist and chemical engineer Annie Caraccio echoed those sentiments.

“When I was in fourth-grade, I think I was only interested in Girl Scouts and playing soccer outside,” Caraccio said. “So congratulations . . . I look forward to seeing you accomplish great things and working with you in the future.”

Baturoni moderated the career panel, which boasted a wide variety of Kennedy employees, from a wildlife ecologist and human resource specialist to a chemist, engineer and contracting officer.

Afterward, the students participated in hands-on educational and skill-building activities. Elementary students built miniature robots using things like toothbrush bristles, wires and a small battery. The high schoolers built speakers using things like copper wire, a foam plate and a magnet. 

As they worked on their speakers, Fernando Zamora-Jimenez and Jakob Ingra, eighth-graders from High Point, N.C., talked about the investigation that brought them to Kennedy. They took cinnamon basil seeds that were flown in space and compared their growth to seeds that remained on Earth. They found that the space-flown seeds grew faster in the beginning, but also died faster. Their conclusion: The space-flown seeds weren’t accustomed to Earth’s climate.

“From this experience, I’ve learned that if you try your hardest, there really are rewards,” said Zamora-Jimenez, who is looking forward to joining the veterinarian or medical field and obtaining a private or commercial pilot’s license.

In the past, the NASA Explorer School Symposium only was open to fifth- through ninth-grade students. Priscilla Moore, an education specialist at Kennedy, explained the reason for opening it up to older students was to deliver NASA educational content to a much broader audience. 

“The NASA Explorer Schools mission is to be the agency’s classroom-based gateway to middle and high school students,” said Moore, “inspiring them to participate in NASA missions and develop their aptitudes in science, technology, engineering and math.” 

Rebecca Regan
NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center

Electromagnetic Radiation Activity: How Light Enables Satellites to Produce Images

Electromagnetic SpectrumEducators, if you are looking for additional lessons on the Electromagnetic Spectrum, check out the Satellite Meteorology module, How Light (Electromagnetic Radiation) Enables Satellites to Produce Images. The module reviews the basics of the electromagnetic spectrum and makes the connection between radiation theory and the images we get from weather satellites.

For more information and a link to the activity, consult the article in NEON in the Satellite Meteorology forum.