Educator Features

Flying a Flag
For some scientists and engineers, designing something to fly in space might be the pinnacle of a career.

On the STS-118 shuttle mission, NASA is giving that opportunity to a 6- to 12-year-old student.

Pennant Design Challenge Logo showing a colorful pennant on the moon
Image to right: The winning pennant design will fly on the space shuttle. Credit: NASA

NASA, AOL's kids service KOL and Mad Science have teamed up for the NASA Space Pennant Design Challenge. Through the challenge, students designed pennants based on either the STS-118 mission or the Vision for Space Exploration. The Vision for Space Exploration is the program that will see humans return to the moon and then travel to Mars and beyond. The winning design will fly into space on the STS-118 shuttle mission, currently scheduled for August 8, 2007.

The STS-118 flight of the Space Shuttle Endeavour will be the first spaceflight of an Educator Astronaut, mission specialist Barbara Morgan. STS-118 is also an important step in the ongoing assembly of the International Space Station.

It wasn't enough to just come up with a creative design. Students had to research their topic and use what they learned to design their pennant. Then, they wrote essays explaining their designs. The essays had to tell how the pennants reflect the research about STS-118 or the Vision for Space Exploration.

Through the process of designing a pennant, students learned about the requirements of spaceflight and the science surrounding NASA's programs, while gaining a lasting understanding about the importance of space exploration.

Entries were submitted online and through the mail from March 15 - April 10, 2007. Ten semifinalists were chosen in each of three age groups -- 6-8, 9-10 and 11-12. Judges from NASA, KOL and Mad Science then selected two finalists from each group. On May 7, those six finalists were announced. One overall winner was selected through online voting.

Related Resources
+ NASA Space Pennant Design Challenge Video

+ STS-118

+ Vision for Space Exploration

+ NASA Education Web Site

The challenge's grand prize will include a trip to the STS-118 launch for the winner and a parent or guardian. The winner's design will also fly on the STS-118 shuttle mission.

Each of the six finalists will receive an autographed picture of the shuttle crew, and an online NASA game will use their pennant design. A NASA Space Day, featuring a speaker from the agency, will be held at their schools. The schools will also receive NASA education resources, including seeds that have been flown in space on STS-118. All students who submit entries will receive certificates of participation.

Through the NASA Space Pennant Design Challenge, NASA continues its tradition of investing in the nation's education program. It is directly tied to the agency's major education goal of attracting and retaining students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines. To compete effectively for the minds, imaginations and career ambitions of America's young people, NASA is focused on engaging and retaining students in education efforts that encourage their pursuit of disciplines critical to NASA's future engineering, scientific and technical missions.

David Hitt/NASA Educational Technology Services