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Oct. 7, 2002

Jonas Di–o                                                                  

NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.

Phone: 650/604-5612 or 604-9000

E-mail: jdino@mail.arc.nasa.gov


AEROSPACE EDUCATION TAKES FLIGHT WITH NASA'S 'VIRTUAL SKIES'

NASA's 'Virtual Skies' Web site transports students and teachers into the exciting world of aerospace research and air traffic management without leaving the classroom.

'Virtual Skies,' a collaboration among aerospace and education experts from NASA's Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley, is part of NASA's expanding commitment to education. The Web site introduces students to several aspects of the exciting world of aviation with a series of virtual field trips using air traffic management as the main theme. "Virtual Skies" contains numerous interactive elements to encourage students to explore the excitement and variety of aviation and aerospace research.

"'Virtual Skies' engages students in real problem-solving scenarios, which demonstrate the relevancy and application of math, science and engineering concepts," explained Christina

O'Guinn, Ames Educational Technology Team lead. "Students learn core concepts, while they also learn the vital skills of critical thinking, communication and collaboration,"

Geared for grades 9 through 12, 'Virtual Skies' is aligned with national education standards in mathematics, science, geography and technology. The Web site also provides teachers with lesson plans and worksheets to allow easier incorporation of material into a regular high school curriculum.

'Virtual Skies' is divided into seven topic areas: weather, aviation research, airport design, air traffic management, navigation, communication and aeronautics. Each topic area four interactive elements designed to enhance student learning.

The first interactive element is the tutorial. The in-depth introduction uses text, numerous interactive images and graphics to introduce 'Virtual Skies.' In selected areas, students can explore subjects in detail without leaving their seats simply by clicking on hyperlinks for additional supporting material.

Once students learn about a topic, they have the opportunity to put their knowledge into practice in the 'Take Control' and 'You Decide' sections. In 'Take Control,' students engage in activities performed by real-life aviation experts. In 'You Decide,' students become decision-makers and gather necessary information to make critical management decisions. The decision-making exercises encourage critical-thinking skills while reinforcing the subject matter. When students feel they have mastered the information, they can earn a certificate of completion by passing a short, fun quiz.

Professional educators designed 'Virtual Skies' using familiar, proven educational practices. To help make the material relevant, 'Virtual Skies' incorporates a 'Career Radar' section in each module, providing job descriptions, as well as education and training requirements. Each career section offers a computerized "affinity check" that evaluates the match between students and careers.

"'Virtual Skies' provides students with learning information and career options through the material presented in each module," said Frank Aguilera, Airspace Systems deputy program manager. "We hope this will give students a foundation to pursue higher education and careers in aerospace and other technical areas."

Support and information for students don't stop with the modules. Throughout the school year, 'Virtual Skies' will offer special events such as web chats, webcasts, online aerospace contests and collaborative projects for students to interact with NASA aerospace specialists.

"The 'Virtual Skies' Web site is an initial step for high school aerospace education," said Robert Jacobsen, Director of the Airspace Systems Program at Ames. "We will continue to encourage and support students and teachers with enrichment activities and learning material. NASA is fully committed to education," he said.

Airspace Systems continues its long tradition of supporting aerospace education by providing major funding for 'Virtual Skies'. The Airspace Systems Program benefits air travelers by conducting research that reduces delays and increases airspace capacity. NASA Ames Research Center has been a leader in air traffic control research and development since the mid-1980s.

'Virtual Skies' is available on the Internet at:

http://virtualskies.arc.nasa.gov/

Information about the Airspace Systems Program can be found at:

http://www.asc.nasa.gov

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