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NASA Helps Students 'Get the Message' In Problem-Solving Competition
"Get the Message?" That's the question that NASA will be asking students during this year's big worldwide educational problem-solving competition called "Odyssey of the Mind."

Photo of the opening ceremonies at the Odyssey of the Mind

Image above: Odyssey's Opening Ceremonies At the 2004 opening ceremonies, NASA provided a 16-foot globe by Worldfx, Inc. Dr. Fritz Hasler showed a 3-minute video clip of Earth visualizations that was part of a full-length video chosen for a prestigious SIGGRAPH Graphics Conference Award. Credit: NASA

Students from all over the world will gather to participate in the Odyssey of the Mind's 26th World Finals, a creative problem-solving competition, at the University of Colorado at Boulder, Colo., May 21 through 24. These students have advanced from competitions held earlier in the year at the local, regional, state or country levels and will now compete for the Odyssey's top awards.

"Odyssey of the Mind is a natural partnership with NASA's Science Mission Directorate, whose vision is to improve life here, extend life to there, and to find life beyond," according to Dr. Michael King, Earth Observing System Senior Project Scientist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. “Exploration of scientific principles and creative solutions through sound engineering is valuable training and exciting to students the world over. NASA's interest in developing a deeper understanding and awareness of Earth-Sun system processes and man’s impact on his or her environment is enabled by teaching the world’s students to think 'outside the box' and solve complex problems on the environment."

This is a photo of a student taking the challenge from the Santa Rosa Recreation and Parks of Santa Rosa, California. Image to right: Strategy Sphere Challenge The Strategy Sphere challenge is sponsored by NASA, and teams use mechanical devices of their own design to propel balls through a hoop. The location of a device when a ball is propelled determines the score value of each ball that passes through the hoop. Teams retrieve the launched balls using an original device. The theme of the problem solution is about how a change in the Earth’s geosphere affects the Earth’s atmosphere. This is a photo of a student taking the challenge from the Santa Rosa Recreation & Parks of Santa Rosa, California. Credit: Odyssey of the Mind

For the challenge called "Get the Message?" teams will present an original performance that includes a story told three times, each time using a different method of communication: a primitive method, an evolved method, and a futuristic method created by the team. The team will create signals that represent a stage in a process of the Earth system that they will display for each communication method. The presentation will also include a narrator or host and a stage set.

Over the past year, NASA has supported Odyssey's preliminary competitions by posting Earth science information on a special web site. Web links were provided to assist students in developing solutions to problems facing the Earth.

This is a schematic showing one activity from this year's NASA challenges that is designed to show how the inputs and outputs of energy or mass in a system balance. Image to left: Activity for Grades 5 - 8: Energy Balance This is one activity from this year's NASA challenges that is designed to show how the inputs and outputs of energy or mass in a system balance. Once the experiment is set up, students answer questions related to what they see happening. Credit: NASA

NASA's Earth Observatory website serves as a host to many teacher and student learning modules. They include: The Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change; Investigating the Climate System with NASA's Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission satellite (including rain, wind, clouds, energy and weather); Exploring the Environment (a coral reef lesson); Teachearth.com, resources for teachers; and "Virtual Vacationland." Virtual Vacationland" is a resource tool to help you find and use Earth Science data and information on the Internet.

NASA expects to reach nearly two million students, parents, teachers, and coaches around the world through its sponsorship of Odyssey of the Mind problems, stimulating interest and learning about Earth system science among all ages.

Image from a PDF file about what Hurricanes Can Do To Your Home. Image to right: Activity for Grades 5 - 8: What Could a Hurricane Do To My Home? This is another activity taken from the classroom curriculum to answer the question: "Will global climate change intensify the effects of hurricanes on coastal areas?" Credit: NASA

The Odyssey of the Mind program, founded in 1978, is an international educational program that promotes team effort and creative problem-solving for students from kindergarten through college. Thousands of teams from throughout the U.S. and about 35 other countries, including Argentina, Canada, China, Germany, Hungary, Japan, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Malaysia, Poland, Russia, Singapore, Turkey, Uganda, the United Kingdom, and Uzbekistan participate in the program.

NASA's Science Mission Directorate (SMD) is dedicated to exploring, discovering and better understanding the Earth and other planets. Through better understanding, NASA's SMD hopes to improve prediction of climate, weather, and natural hazards using the unique vantage point of space. The goal of its participation in Odyssey of the Mind is to stimulate student's interest in pursuing an avenue of study that will be beneficial to future research in Earth science.

To access the Odyssey of the Mind official Web site, visit:

For information about NASA’s Odyssey of the Mind Get the Message challenge, on the Internet, visit:

For information about NASA, Education, and Earth Science Programs on the Internet, visit:

Rob Gutro
Goddard Space Flight Center