Feature

Text Size

Students Teach the World About Space Station Science
01.18.13
 
Astronaut Don Pettit performs Ultrasound Eye Imaging during Expedition 30, as part of the continued research involving vision changes experienced by some astronauts during long-duration stays in microgravity. This research is similar to the Advanced Diagnostic Ultrasound in Microgravity (ADUM) investigation previously completed on the station, one of the many investigations students researched for the ISS Science Challenge.. (NASA) Astronaut Don Pettit performs Ultrasound Eye Imaging during Expedition 30, as part of medical examinations to monitor vision changes experienced by some astronauts during long-duration stays in microgravity. This examination and other tests will be used in an upcoming research study, similar to the Advanced Diagnostic Ultrasound in Microgravity (ADUM) investigation previously completed on the station, one of the many investigations students researched for the ISS Science Challenge. (NASA)
View large image

Robonaut measuring air velocity at the Lab Forward (FWD) Starboard (STBD) Intermodule Ventilation (IMV) outlet diffuser with the Velocicalc instrument, in the U.S. Laboratory. This is one of the many investigations students researched for the ISS Science Challenge. Photo was taken during Expedition 30. (NASA) Robonaut measuring air velocity at the Lab Forward (FWD) Starboard (STBD) Intermodule Ventilation (IMV) outlet diffuser with the Velocicalc instrument, in the U.S. Laboratory. This is one of the many investigations students researched for the ISS Science Challenge. Photo was taken during Expedition 30. (NASA)
View large image
What an inspired idea -- let students teach and share with others the interesting research astronauts do on the International Space Station, or ISS. After all, today's students are the future explorers and innovators of scientific discovery, space exploration, and technological innovation. There is often nothing more gratifying to a kid or young adult than sharing what they know with others -- particularly their parents, teachers or friends.

While the orbiting lab is breaking ground on scientific and technological exploration fronts, time is made for educational endeavors, too -- events and projects that encompass many different topics.

The International Space Station Science Challenge is an excellent opportunity for students to learn more about the different types of investigations performed on orbit. At the same time they can hone their scientific analysis skills and share what they learned with others.

"The most interesting thing we learned is how to work as a team and how to use each other's ideas together," said Andrea and Carlie, sixth grade student teammates who studied butterflies and spiders.

Pilot 1 winners were announced Jan. 18. Pilot 2 kicks off in February. While the pilot teams include a small sampling of schools, the goal is to extend the program to students nationwide by the 2013-2014 school year.

Here's how the challenge works -- students in grades 5-12 review the extensive list of investigations that have either been completed or are currently being conducted on the station, choosing one that interests them most. Their challenge is to develop a project that teaches others about their chosen experiment -- creating a Web page, PowerPoint presentation, podcast or video podcast, or written report that is informative and interesting.

Each project answers questions about the principal investigator(s), the goal of the selected investigation and the mission(s) it flew on, along with procedures or steps, results obtained, and the benefits to Earth and space research identified.

Students use NASA's Space Station Research and Technology website for researching investigations. The descriptions provided on the site align with the National Science Education Standards for Physical Science, Life Science, Science and Technology, and Science in Personal and Social Perspectives.

Abishek, one of the students who submitted two challenges, said, "I never knew NASA did so many different tests and experiments. I mean I know you guys did a lot but the sheer number of experiments posted on the site still amazed me!"

Participants submit projects for judging with a brief narrative of why they chose a particular investigation and what they learned. Projects are featured on the challenge website, with winning submissions highlighted on the NASA Education website.

The Pilot 1 winners chose exciting investigations to highlight in the areas of Earth and space science, biology and biotechnology, human research, physical science and technology. Investigations students chose to learn more about included cell culturing, diagnostic ultrasound, robotics, treadmill kinematics, soldering in microgravity, Earth observations, combustion, and possible exercise countermeasures for bone and muscle loss.

Sixth grade students interviewed had many thoughts on the project: One thought it was interesting that astronauts could sleep in any direction they wanted because of microgravity, while another was amazed by the number of computers they have on the space station to do research.

"It was cool to learn that things might react differently in space. Astronauts do experiments in space so they can learn new things and improve things on Earth and also to learn more so people can eventually live other places in space," said another sixth grader.

This project is the brainchild of teachers Darcie Fregoe and Lisa Chizek, and piloted in their classrooms; both are contributing teachers from NASA's Endeavour Science Teaching Certificate Project. High school students participated in the pilot project as part of the Interdisciplinary National Science Project Incorporating Research and Education Experience, also known as INSPIRE.

"I believe it is my responsibility as a middle school Earth Science/Astronomy teacher to educate students about the very valuable contributions ISS Science has made on their lives," said Fregoe. "I want them to get excited about NASA and the ISS, and I want them to start thinking about possible futures working for NASA."

"Seeing the excitement as the students collaborated and turned their understanding into projects to teach others was very inspiring," Chizek said.

The International Space Station Science Challenge program is a collaboration between Teaching From Space, ISS National Lab, ISS Program Science Office and INSPIRE. For more information on student programs visit the NASA Science for Researchers Student Programs website.

"The ISS Science Challenge gives students the opportunity to learn about the research happening on the ISS in depth. It develops the creative, cognitive, and presentation skills of students while producing useful material for their peers and the public to understand the work of ISS research," said Dynae Fullwood, Teaching From Space education specialist.

"I always have my students go home and teach their parents what they are learning in my class," Fregoe said. "Several parents sent in very positive notes that they too didn't know much about NASA and the ISS and were enjoying learning from their children."

 
 
Lori Keith
Public Affairs Office
NASA's Johnson Space Center