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NASA Exploration Design Challenge Frequently Asked Questions
July 24, 2013

Q: Who can participate in the NASA EDC?

A: The challenge is open to children in grades K-12. Children may participate in a variety of settings: classrooms, home school, after-school clubs, summer camps, groups like Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, 4-H, museums, science centers, libraries, families, neighborhoods, individuals, etc.

The materials for the challenge are inexpensive and readily available. Students can work in teams or alone to test materials and design a simple shield using those materials.

International children are welcome to participate in most phases of the NASA Exploration Design Challenge, however, international children are not eligible to compete in the Grades 9 – 12 Phase 2, Solve Problems Like Engineers.  

Q: Who can lead a NASA EDC team?

A: Each group must have an adult to serve as their mentor, educator, or group leader. Adult leaders may be teachers, parents, college students, volunteers. The adult leaders will be the only adults whose names will be collected as part of Orion’s virtual crew.

Adult sponsors may register multiple groups throughout the duration of the challenge.

High school teams working on Phase 2, the design phase of the challenge, may include one college student on their team to act as a mentor. All Phase 2 participants, including the college students, must be U.S. citizens.

Q: How do I register?

A: The adult guiding children through the challenge will register to indicate interest in the challenge and an estimated number of children who will be participating, and their geographic location (city, state or city, country).

Adult sponsors may register multiple groups throughout the challenge.

Following the completion of the EDC challenge, the adult sponsor is asked to submit first names of the children who have completed work and will serve as the virtual crew for Orion’s inaugural flight test, EFT-1. A fter submitting names, the adult leaders may download certificates for the children and themselves.

Only first names are submitted so that we do not collect any personally identifying information from minors for the NASA Exploration Design Challenge. All information will be used only for the purposes of this challenge. View the complete Privacy Policy at: https://www.nianet.org/Privacy-Policy.aspx

Q: How many children may be on a team?

A: Team sizes range from one or two children working with an adult to entire schools working on the challenge. In the High School Challenge, Phase 2 (Solve Problems Like Engineers), student teams must upload their work and design notebooks. These teams should include 2-6 children and may include one undergraduate student currently enrolled in a university or community college to work with the high school students.

Q: How long does it take to complete the challenge?

A: The NASA EDC is versatile. Younger children or children only completing Phase 1 of the challenge may complete the explorations in one or two 30 to 40-minute time slots. Older children who are creating design notebooks and actually building a sensor shield that can be considered for flight will need much longer to complete their work.

Q: How do I get certificates?

A: Once children have completed the NASA Exploration Design Challenge, the adult leader must return to the NASA EDC web site and click on the “Submit Names” link. A form will open that asks for some basic information, including a zip code and the first names of the children who completed the challenge. After completing and submitting the form, a link to a certificate will appear. The certificate allows the adult team leader to type in the name of each person before printing. Blank certificates may also be printed so that names may be added by hand.

Adult leaders may download a second certificate acknowledging their work guiding the students through the challenge.

Q: What is the purpose of the additional resources?

A: As children complete their initial investigation into the kinds of materials that may block visible light or are learning about how radiation exposure over time damages human tissue, additional questions may arise. Questions such as: What is radiation? Does all energy on the electromagnetic spectrum behave the same way? Why do we need to protect our astronauts from the sun? How is Earth protected from cosmic radiation? These and many other questions may be answered using the hands-on, standards-based activities and videos listed as additional resources. Children are not required to do these additional activities prior to completing the challenge, but the resources will enrich and help extend student understanding of the issues related to radiation and long-duration space travel.

Q: What is the deadline for the challenge?

A: Children may complete the challenge at any time. For names to be added to the virtual crew list, children must complete their work by June 30, 2014.

High school students who wish to compete in Phase 2: Build and Test must complete their work and upload their design notebooks before Feb. 28, 2014.

Q: May I modify the suggested lessons?

A: Yes. Please make appropriate modifications in the lessons to meet the needs of your learners. Be sure the intent of the lesson remains intact and that children have an opportunity to explore, experiment, and design through hands-on experiences.

For example, when you open the K-4 lesson, you’ll see that the NASA Ray Shielding Activity is marked grades 3 – 5. The activity was originally developed for children in grades 3-5, however, it can easily be modified for younger children. The concept of experimenting with common materials to see which ones best block the light is the essential piece. 

For the younger children, allowing them to test materials like tissue paper, foam cups, cloth, card stock, and construction paper (as well as other readily available safe materials) to see if the light from a flashlight passes through the material will help them understand how radiation passes into the spacecraft.  Children may be very surprised to see just how many foam cups have to be stacked on top of each other before the light no longer shines through! Younger children may not be able to complete the data collection on the provided student sheets, but the forms can be modified to meet the needs and developmental levels of the children. Younger children may check Yes or No next to the material, for example, or may be asked to simply count the number of pieces of paper it took to block the light completely.

Even young children will begin exploring with the materials, combining them to see what really will block the light. In doing so, children have conducted an experiment, applied their results, and created a design that effectively meets criteria. 


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Page Last Updated: May 30th, 2014
Page Editor: NASA Administrator