NASA Now: Engineering Careers at NASA

NASA NowIn this NASA Now classroom video, you’ll hear from three career engineers at NASA Langley Research Center who work in very different fields. They discuss the unique projects they are working on and how science, technology, engineering and mathematics education played a role in their career path to NASA.

Engineering Careers at NASA is available on the NASA Explorer Schools Virtual Campus beginning May 15.

NASA Now Minute

NASA Deciphering the Mysterious Math of the Solar Wind

Many areas of scientific research — Earth’s weather, ocean currents, the outpouring of magnetic energy from the sun — require mapping out the large scale features of a complex system and its intricate details simultaneously.

Describing such systems accurately, relies on numerous kinds of input, beginning with observations of the system, incorporating mathematical equations to approximate those observations, running computer simulations to attempt to replicate observations, and cycling back through all the steps to refine and improve the models until they jibe with what’s seen. Ultimately, the models successfully help scientists describe, and even predict, how the system works.

To read more about the math involved with solar activity studies, visit

This research provides an extension to the NASA Explorer Schools featured lesson, Geometry: Space Math Problems—Solar Storms. To access this lesson, visit the NES Virtual Campus.

Why the World Didn't End Yesterday

NASA is so sure the world won’t come to an end on Dec. 21, 2012, they have already released a video and news item for the day after.

According to media reports of an ancient Maya prophecy, the world was supposed to be destroyed on Dec. 21, 2012.

Apparently not.

“The whole thing was a misconception from the very beginning,” says Dr. John Carlson, director of the Center for Archaeoastronomy. “The Maya calendar did not end on Dec. 21, 2012, and there were no Maya prophecies foretelling the end of the world on that date.”

The truth, says Carlson, is more interesting than fiction.

To learn more, watch the video below or visit

Credit: Science@NASA.

Web Seminar for Educators: Engineering Design Challenge: Thermal Protection System

Professional Development Web Seminar

NASA Explorer Schools and the National Science Teacher Association are hosting a 90-minute live professional development Web seminar for educators on Dec. 6, 2012, at 6:30 p.m. EST. Learn about the science of heat transfer and heat dissipation related to NASA vehicles, and receive an introduction to the associated NES lesson, Engineering Design Challenge, Thermal Protection System. In this activity, students are challenged to design a thermal protection system and test it using a propane torch.

For more information and to register online, visit

Link to the NES Virtual Campus home page.

Professional Development Web Seminar: Distance-Rate-Time Problems: Smart Skies

Professional Development Web Seminar

The NASA Explorer Schools project and the National Science Teachers Association are hosting a 90-minute professional development Web seminar for educators on Nov. 28, 2012, at 6:30 p.m. EST. Learn how to use an innovative air traffic control simulator to engage your students as they explore the mathematics involved in the role of an air traffic controller. In the three-plane problem featured in this lesson, the challenge is to change routes and speeds to line up the planes safely, with proper spacing, at a given route intersection.

This seminar will be repeated on Apr. 3, 2013.

You do not have to be part of the NASA Explorer Schools project in order to participate in this professional development Web seminar.

For more information and to register online, visit

2012 OPTIMUS PRIME Spinoff Video Contest for Grades 3-12 Students

Optimus PrimeNASA has opened registration for the 2012 OPTIMUS PRIME Spinoff Video Contest. Featuring OPTIMUS PRIME, the leader from the popular TRANSFORMERS brand, the contest highlights spinoffs from NASA technologies that are used on Earth. The goal is to help students understand the benefits of NASA technology to their daily lives.

Each student, or group of students, will submit a three- to five-minute video on a selected NASA spinoff technology listed in NASA’s 2011 “Spinoff” publication. Videos must demonstrate an understanding of the NASA spinoff technology and the associated NASA mission, as well as the commercial application and public benefit associated with the spinoff technology.

Participants must register for the contest by Dec. 15, 2012.

Video entries will be posted on the NASA YouTube channel, and the public will be responsible for the first round of judging. The top five submissions from each of the three grade groups (elementary [3rd-5th], middle [6th-8th] and high school [9th-12th]) will advance for final judging. A NASA panel will select a winning entry from each group. The students submitting the winning entries will be the guests of honor at the OPTIMUS PRIME Spinoff Contest awards ceremony in May 2013. While there, the winners will receive the OPTIMUS PRIME Spinoff Contest trophy and have the opportunity to meet NASA VIPs, astronauts and actor Peter Cullen, who voices the character OPTIMUS PRIME.

TRANSFORMERS and OPTIMUS PRIME are trademarks of Hasbro and are used with permission. © 2012 Hasbro. All Rights Reserved.

For more information, visit

Questions about this contest should be directed to Darryl Mitchell at

Video Chat for Students: Multiple Teams Make the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle

Aerospace Engineer Nicole SmithNASA Explorer Schools is offering students in grades 7-12 an opportunity to ask questions of Nicole Smith, an aerospace engineer on the Orion crew and service module project. Join the video chat on Oct. 24, 2012, from 1 – 2 p.m. EDT to ask Smith questions about the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, America’s new spacecraft for human exploration. She also will address the importance of teamwork and her career as an aerospace engineer.

RealWorld-InWorld NASA Engineering Design Challenge to Solve Real NASA-Related Problems

RealWorld-InWorld logoHere’s an exciting opportunity to involve your students in the unique RealWorld-InWorld NASA Engineering Design Challenge to solve real NASA-related problems.

There are two phases to the RealWorld-InWorld challenge.

The challenge begins in the RealWorld where students in grades 8-12 use the engineering design process to solve one of two problems related to the James Webb Space Telescope. Educator and student RealWorld resources will be available on September 1.

Upon completion of RealWorld registration, teachers and others guiding students through the RealWorld design phase may register to use PTC Creo professional engineering software along with free online training valued at more than $900,000.

Twenty selected RealWorld teams are mentored by college engineering students, InWorld, in a virtual world setting. Team leader registration and InWorld resources will be available on September 1.

The InWorld phase begins January 31, 2013 following the completion of the RealWorld phase.

For more information about this exciting challenge, visit the RealWorld-InWorld website.

Link to the NES Virtual Campus home page.

NASA Releases Xbox360 Video Game: Mars Rover Landing

Mars Rover LandingIn collaboration with Microsoft Corp., a new outreach game was unveiled Monday to give the public a sense of the challenge and adventure of landing in a precise location on the surface. Called “Mars Rover Landing,” the game is an immersive experience for the Xbox 360 home entertainment console that allows users to take control of their own spacecraft and face the extreme challenges of landing a rover on Mars.