Education for Exploration
"It will forever be education for exploration."
That message traveled into space, thanks to the winner of a NASA contest.
Tapasya won NASA's Space Pennant Design Challenge. Tapasya is a student in Mount Laurel, N.J. To win the contest, Tapasya had to design a pennant about space. The pennant could have been about the STS-118 space shuttle mission. It could also have been about exploring space. Tapasya's pennant was about both.
Because Tapasya's pennant won, it flew on the space shuttle during the STS-118 mission. The contest was for students who are 6 to 12 years old. Thousands of pennants were entered in the contest. Judges picked the six best pennants. AOL's kids' site, KOL, put pictures of those six online. Mad Science also helped with the contest. Other students voted for the best one of those six pennants. Tapasya's pennant got the most votes and won the contest. Tapasya was there when the shuttle launched with her pennant aboard. The prize included a trip to the shuttle launch site in Florida. So Tapasya got to see the pennant go into space.
The STS-118 space shuttle mission was a special one for students and teachers. Barbara Morgan was a member of the crew. Barbara is a teacher who became an astronaut. On the mission, the crew helped build the International Space Station. Finishing the space station will help NASA do exciting things. Later, astronauts will go to the moon and may someday go to Mars, and beyond.
Students had to do more than just design a pennant. They also had to write an essay about it. Tapasya's essay told about what was on the pennant.
"Earth pictured in a book, and STS-118 is going out to space," Tapasya wrote. “The space missions signified by the space craft carry space exploration out of theory into practice. The first teacher who is fully trained as an astronaut is going to space in the STS-118. The teacher is taking the visions of an educator, to look at space research with a new perspective. Also, education from now will approach space missions with a more practical approach, and not just theory in textbooks. Hence, futuristically, it will forever be education for exploration."
Tapasya did not just win the contest. She also created one of the other finalist pennants. Her other design was named "Moon, Mars and Beyond." It was about the future of space exploration. It shows the Earth, with symbols from several countries. The space shuttle is flying into space. The other end of the pennant shows Mars.
"Winning this contest is very exciting," Tapasya told NASA. "In my opinion, the best part is that my pennant will be carried into space. Many artists would love a chance for something designed by them to go into space. I imagine watching the STS-118 being launched. The humongous shuttle will defy gravity and soar off into space. It will carry with it so many dreams and fascinations of the peoples of the world.
"My dream of education leading to exploration of other worlds is now closer to reality. My education has lead to my winning the pennant design contest. I think I'm very lucky for this wonderful opportunity."
Four other designs were chosen as finalists. Tiffani, of Camos, Wash., created a pennant named "To the Moon and Beyond." Devneet, of Duluth, Ga., created a design named “Learning and Education Through Space Exploration." Ryan, of Plano, Texas, made a pennant named "Knowledge, Success, Accomplishments." Shannon, of Ridgewood, N.J., made a design named "Astronaut Teacher in Space."
All five finalists will get signed pictures of the STS-118 crew. Their designs were used in a NASA game. People from NASA will visit their schools. The schools will also get NASA materials for teachers to use.
Today's students will be the people who make NASA's and the nation's future happen. That is why NASA is helping students learn. NASA wants to get students excited about things like science and math. That way, those students will want to become the scientists, engineers and astronauts of the future.
STS-118 Education Resource Page
NASA Education Web Site →
NASA Space Pennant Puzzle
David Hitt/NASA Educational Technology Services