NASA Summer Of Innovation Project Keeps Students Interested In Science, Space
April Flowers for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Is your middle-schooler a science geek or a space junkie? Do you want to keep them interested even though summer break has started? NASA, to help with that goal, has announced plans for its 2013 Summer of Innovation (SOI) project that challenges middle school students across the US to share in the excitement of scientific discovery and space exploration.
The Summer of Innovation program will use unique, NASA-related science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) opportunities created through the expertise and reach of NASA’s 10 field centers, national academic and industry partners and smaller, non-traditional collaborators to keep students engaged during the summer break.
The program partners will host family activity days, summer day camps and opportunities for students to talk with NASA experts. Kids who attend the day camps will design and construct their own rockets, build water filtration systems, learn to become as fit as an astronaut, and participate in NASA hands-on activities. The Exploration Design Challenge, a NASA and industry STEM initiative announced in March, will be the main focus of the SOI program with components of the Exploration Design Challenge woven into many SOI offerings. Students, parents and teachers who are interested may also participate in the challenge without taking part in the SOI activities.
“The Exploration Design Challenge is an amazing opportunity for students in kindergarten through 12th grade and is a fun way to keep a STEM focus this summer,” Leland Melvin, NASA’s associate administrator for education in Washington, said in a statement. “For the middle school set, we have an opportunity for them to learn about space radiation and how it can affect astronauts traveling to deep space. They then will design and develop a radiation shield prototype to mitigate these risks. After successfully completing these activities, the students may submit their names to be flown to space aboard the Orion spaceflight test next year.”
Previously selected national partners will continue STEM efforts started during the SOI sessions in 2011 and 2012. The predominant push of these continued efforts will be through summer camps that use NASA-themed curricula and hands-on activities that present academic challenges. The STEM expertise of other national organizations, such as the Department of Education’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, YMCAs, 4-H chapters, science centers and museums will also be leveraged by NASA to create engaging content for the 2013 SOI.
Mini-grants will be offered in amounts as much as $2,500 to allow smaller, non-traditional organizations to spur STEM interest in their communities. Proposals for these grants will be solicited in early June.
The Summer of Innovation program was piloted by NASA in response to President Obama´s Educate to Innovate initiative. Students who are engaged in STEM activities during their middle school years, according to previous studies, are more likely to pursue the scientific and technical career fields critical to maintaining US competitiveness in the future.
In the four years since its inception, SOI has reached more than 128,000 students in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, while also providing professional development opportunities to more than 16,000 educators.