NASA Flexbook: An "Invaluable Tool" for the Future of STEM
By: Sasha Congiu
It all started in March of last year when former U.S. Chief Technology Officer, Aneesh Chopra, asked NASA Langley in Hampton, Va., to help prepare and engage the next generation workforce. The main focus was on science, technology, education and mathematics (STEM) education, specifically modeling and simulation.
Chopra's request launched a partnership between NASA and CK-12, a non-profit education organization; and as a result, they landed a FlexBook entitled "Modeling and Simulation for High School Teachers: Principles, Problems and Lesson Plans."
A year later, approximately 30 contributors and developers of the FlexBook were honored for their efforts, cooperation and collaboration at a ceremony that took place Aug. 10 at NASA Headquarters in Washington. And for those who couldn't attend, technology was used to its full potential by using Adobe Connect and streaming the event providing two-way communication and viewing.
"If it wasn't for your experience and your passion for sharing knowledge, we might not be here today," Lesa Roe, Director of NASA Langley, said proudly. "Your combined efforts will have a positive and lasting impact as teachers – and states – across the nation work toward improving their science standards."
A FlexBook is an online textbook created by various authors and used by teachers as an interactive means to educate their students. It is similar to Wikipedia in that anyone can access the product online and make improvements or changes. It can also be printed and used on an iPad or other portable devices.
In support of the President's initiatives for STEM, NASA’s FlexBook is an invaluable tool for future scientists and engineers to accomplish missions such as the successful landing of the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Curiosity Rover. For more than a decade, the team at NASA Langley ran approximately 10 million simulations of every scenario the MSL rover might encounter.
"This FlexBook introduces teachers and students to modeling and simulation - a critical methodology long used by NASA to accomplish incredibly difficult challenges such as the landing of Curiosity on Mars early this past Monday morning," Roe said.
Curiosity is one of NASA's many great milestones supporting STEM, and NASA's FlexBook will aid in more to come.
"[NASA's simulation and modeling FlexBook] is a powerful tool that will empower teachers across the nation to mix, match, and redesign content, ultimately improving the quality of the STEM-related education," said NASA Deputy Associate Administrator for Education Jim Stofan.
Tom Kalil, Deputy Director of Policy for the Office of Science and Technology Policy, emphasized the importance of STEM education, especially through the ability to implement an online learning environment. “Improving STEM education has been one of the President’s top priorities," Kalil said. "[It's] important for every goal of the nation."
This FlexBook and the collaboration between NASA, CK-12, industry, other government agencies and academia, will benefit future generations and empower, engage and motivate students pursuing STEM-related degrees and careers.
"It's good for the students; it's good for NASA; and it’s good for our nation," said NASA's Associate Administrator, Robert Lighfoot. "These are our scientists and engineers of tomorrow."
NASA's FlexBook displays innovation by the contributors and helps to inspire infinite opportunity.
"Humorist Elinor Smith once said, 'It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and made things happen,' " Roe quoted.
And that's exactly what they did.
The Researcher News
NASA Langley Research Center
Editor & Curator: Denise Lineberry
Executive Editor & Responsible NASA Official: Rob Wyman