On January 13, NASA and the U.S. Department of Education marked the successful completion of a pilot program designed to engage more students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM. Attendees at the event, held at NASA Headquarters in Washington, included senior officials from both agencies as well as invited guests. The group reviewed the pilot activity and associated evaluation approach, identified best practices, and discussed potential follow-on efforts. The highlight of the event was the presentation of successful student entries from the design competition. And team of students from Roanoke, Virginia was one of the winners of the NASA Exploration Design Challenge.
In July 2013, the two agencies signed a Space Act Agreement to launch the collaborative pilot education initiative, which began in the fall. It infused NASA content into the Department of Education’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers. The 21CCLCs provide academic enrichment opportunities during non-school hours or expanded learning time for students and their families, particularly students who attend schools in under-resourced communities.
In support of the pilot initiative, NASA provided online STEM challenges and associated curriculum materials to 21CCLCs in three states: Colorado, Michigan and Virginia. The pilot leveraged resources between NASA and the Department of Education to address the national need for a STEM-educated workforce and to create and evaluate STEM resources for 21CCLC grantees’ future use.
The pilot featured three NASA student design challenges: a simulated parachute drop onto the surface of Mars, a radiation protection system for astronauts and flight hardware, and a recreational activity that astronauts could perform in the microgravity environment aboard the International Space Station.
Student teams worked with mentors to develop their products. They then submitted 3- to 5-minute videos of their design entries for evaluation. A team of NASA education professionals and technical staff reviewed the submissions and selected four submissions to showcase based upon creativity, use of the engineering design process, and student data collection and analysis. The highlight of Monday’s event was the video presentation from each of these teams:
Exploration Design Challenge
Team Name: Team Cupcake
Video Name: Space the Final Frontier
School: Stonewall Jackson Middle School, Roanoke, Va.
Parachuting Onto Mars
Team Name: Thinkers of Tomorrow
Video Name: Working Today, Parachuting Tomorrow
School: Atherton Junior High, Burton, Mich.
Team Name: Team Imaginators
Video Name: The Awesome NASA Inventors
School: Bruce Randolph School, Denver, Colo.
Spaced Out Sports
Team Name: Team Spaced Out
Video Name: Good Banana, Bad Banana
School: Washtenaw International Middle Academy, Ypsilanti, Mich.
The successful completion of the collaborative activity demonstrated two of the key goals of the federal Committee on STEM Education: increase student engagement in STEM experiences and implement more effective coordination among federal agencies with STEM education investments.