Students from across Virginia and North Carolina are playing and learning with LEGO plastic building blocks, sensors and sophisticated computer technology in these last few weeks of school … all because of a NASA Small Aircraft Technology Transportation System (SATS) demonstration.
More than 20 teams, including elementary, middle and high school students, will compete in a MINDSTORMS Robotics Challenge June 5 at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research near the Danville Regional Airport in Danville, Va.
The competition is part of SATS 2005: A Transformation of Air Travel. SATS 2005 is a three-day event that showcases technology developments that will allow new classes of aircraft including very light jets and other advanced small planes to use neighborhood airports to fly people from place to place, on demand.
Students will use the SATS concept as their theme during the MINDSTORMS competition. "Their challenge mat is similar to a community airport surface," said Bill Duggins, Virginia FIRST LEGO League contact with the Mechanical Engineering Department at Virginia Tech. "The students are being challenged to design, build and program small autonomous robots using LEGO MINDSTORM technology that can pick people up and "fly" them safely and efficiently to another small airfield. The robots will be designed to carry out missions similar to what SATS planes will do in real life."
Virginia competitors include students from private groups in Alexandria, Annandale, Forrest, Culpeper and Midland as well students from Blacksburg Christian School in Blacksburg, Oakland Middle School in Keswick, Sutherland Middle School in Charlottesville, Chatham High School and Woodlawn Academy in Chatham, Galileo Magnet High School and Westwood High School in Danville, Short Pump Elementary School in Glen Allen, Martinsville Middle School in Martinsville, Stuart Elementary School in Stuart, and Lunenberg Central High School in Victoria. North Carolina will field a private team from Durham and some from Paisley Magnet School in Winston-Salem.
The LEGO challenge isn't the only educational experience students will get to enjoy during SATS 2005: A Transformation of Air Travel. More than 600 youngsters from Danville will have the chance learn more about aviation with the help of hands-on activities. They will also visit the main exhibits, which will feature small airplanes and cockpit technologies.
"NASA's aim is to influence students' choices by showing them science can be fun," said Pete Thomas, NASA aerospace education programs manager. "We're particularly interested in reaching middle school students, because if they have a positive attitude towards science they may decide to choose science and engineering studies when they reach high school and beyond."
Many of the Danville students will have the opportunity to design and construct two gliders and then compare how the different aircraft fly. Some will also use helium balloons in a "lighter than aircraft" activity that will allow them to calculate lift capabilities, pick up cargo and maneuver the vehicle along a specified path. Plus other youngsters will create styrofoam gliders that have movable controls, then compete against each other in teams.
And even after the SATS 2005 technology demonstration is over TV viewers across the country will have a chance to learn from the event. NASA will videotape much of the event and include parts of it in television programs produced by NASA's Center for Distance Learning. The Center for Distance Learning enhances grades K-16 curriculums by providing educators with free multimedia instructional programs.
One of those shows, NASA's Destination Tomorrow, will feature segments on SATS current research and design phases, aviation within NASA, and aviation in the nation in its 2005- 2006 broadcast season. NASA's Destination Tomorrow is broadcast in English and Spanish on U.S. and international stations and is also available via Voice of America.
For more information about SATS 2005: A Transformation of Air Travel, please check the Internet at:
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