Education: October 2009 Archives

Coming soon: Nigerians in space?, Global Post

"Nigeria really does have a space agency. The west African nation's National Space Research and Development Agency is already celebrating its 10th anniversary. And as America and Europe's space agencies set their sights on joint exploration of Mars, Nigeria has big plans of its own: It wants to send a Nigerian up into space in 2015, making Nigeria home to the first black African astronaut."

Keith's note: Ignore the first part of the article about the stranded Nigerian in space email scam. (Pause) While some may justifiably argue that this is really a case where money needs to be spent attending to Earthly needs, why is it that poor countries like Nigeria and more prosperous, but still poverty-straddled nations like India, Malaysia, and China (to some extent) all seem to think that putting one of their citizens into space is such a big deal? After all, it was first done nearly half a century ago. It certainly can't be all the high tech spinoffs that Nigerians enjoy since 99.99% of them have never even seen "smoke detectors, implantable pacemakers ..." etc. etc. and the other spinoffs that NASA loves to incessantly wave at the general public as a rationale for NASA spending.

What is it about space that excites these countries, but leaves us mostly bored - except every few years in a few states when job cuts suddenly appear and we hoist up our grand space accomplishments as an excuse reason to not put people out on the street?

What have these countries discovered about space exploration and its potential that we have long ago forgotten? What would it take for such a (re)discovery to happen in America?

Facebook for scientists: Map your expertise, Indiana University

"Indiana University has received more than $1.8 million from the National Institutes of Health to collaborate on a $12.2 million, seven-university project designed to network researchers around the country. While the proposed new networking system will contain authentication mechanisms to protect sensitive data and intellectual property, it is being described as a Facebook for scientists."

NIH funds a Facebook for scientists, FCW

"The new system will federate information about faculty and staff from institutional repositories, listings of published articles from academic publishers, and information provided by researchers. Using Vivo, users can search the information and assemble it on a unique page."

Keith's note: Too bad NASA can't do this. Spacebook (internal NASA access only) doesn't really count since only NASA employees inside the firewall can see it - and other field centers have their own competing systems. Taxpayers are denied access. If this sort of information were out in the open, in an easy to use format, not only would NASA and NASA-funded personnel have easier access to what eaveryoen was doing, but so would the taxpaying public. Indeed, this might even lead to unexpected avenues of collaboration between NASA and the outside world.

I think every employee at NASA - from Charlie Bolden to maintenance workers - civil servants and contractors alike - should be required to have and maintain a Facebook Page. Nothing fancy - just who they are and what they do. Performance plan, job description, and recent publications etc. You can set these things up in an hour or less and tweak them when need be. If they want to make it fancier beyond that - great. No need to make it their personal page - they can do that elsewhere. I am talking about a professional page.

In addition to making NASA more open to various search engines, this might also serve to enlighten policy makers and the public as to what vast range of things NASA actually does, how real (and normal) the NASA family actually is, and that they are a part of the economy - and society - just like everyone else. Right now most of what NASA actually does is hidden behind a firewall in a black box with PAO as the only one with a key.

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Launches Spacebook, NASA CIO Blog

Keith's note: New NASA Advisory Council Communications Subcommitee chair @milesobrien just Twittered: "If you were creating an all-star team of people to help NASA improve its efforts in education and outreach, whom would you select?"

NASA Advisory Council Meeting, 29 Oct, NASA ARC

Columbia Memorial Space Science Learning Center Opens in Downey, California, Challenger Center for Space Science Education

"The Columbia Memorial Space Science Learning Center opens today in Downey, California. The facility is a memorial to the crews of both the space shuttle Columbia, lost in 2003, and Challenger, lost in 1986. Among the Center's diverse program offerings will be a Challenger Learning Center, where students will fly simulated space missions. The Downey location joins 46 other locations in the growing international network of Challenger Learning Centers that fly hundreds of thousands of students every year."

Bolden@Huntsville Today

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden in Huntsville today, Huntsville Times

"NASA Administrator Charles Bolden will take part in the Wernher von Braun Symposium and dinner held at the Von Braun Center and visit four local schools. In the morning, Bolden will visit Lincoln Elementary School, Columbia High School and Huntsville Center for Technology. Bolden is also scheduled to visit Horizon Elementary School in Madison."

@GoBoldlyNASA: Go Boldly How can you help the nation 'Go Boldly'??? Forward the site to everyone you've ever known and ask them to...

@NASAWatch: Dear @GoBoldlyNASA stop drinking the NASA Koolaid and spend some time in the real world where people are losing their jobs.

Bolden Speaks to Investors

Remarks by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden To The National Association of Investment Companies

"You may not know it, but NASA also has the authority to fund prizes. Over this weekend, NASA just held a competition in California with $750,000 in prizes for anyone in America who could move the most "regolith" --- or moon dirt --- with a robot. Twenty-three teams competed. The winning team is "Paul's Robotics", led by a young man by the name Paul Ventimiglia. Paul not only beat out 22 other competitor teams, he beat teams of professional aerospace engineers, and teams of world-class robotics experts. Paul is a college student at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts. He heard about the competition from a high school teacher. Now that is inspiring."

NASA Chief Praises Commercial Spaceflight, Suborbital Science, and Innovation Prizes in Latest Speech, Commercial Spaceflight Federation

A Vague Call To Action

Keith's note: The Coalition for Space Exploration put an advisory out this morning about some public service announcement videos they produced for The first one is above, the second is below.

These are certainly nicely made videos. My prime criticism, however, is that after all the nostalgic imagery and emotions are brought forth, viewers are not told what specific threats are being made to American space exploration and what specific things they need to do to stop these threats from affecting America's space program. All you get are hints and vague suggestions that things might not continue - with no explanation as to why.

If these videos are meant to be a call to action, then they are missing some critical components. Why do we need to Keep America In Space? What (or who) is threatening to prevent this? Is it President Obama who is doing this? Members of Congress?

These videos impart a sense that things are going OK as they are. If so, then why make the video in the first place? What are you asking viewers to do - and to think? Who do they contact in order to stop these threats? Congress? The White House? NASA? What do they say? What needs to be fixed?

If something needs to be done then you need to give people the tools to fix things and a "to do" list to implement if you want things to be fixed. You can't just drop hints and expect things to happen.

These ads (again, nicely done from a production standpoint) seem to be aimed at people who already support space exploration. In other words, more choir practice. When will the Coalition - and all "space advocates" - finally break this habit? You really do not need to convince the faithful. They are already in the tank.

These videos are described as "public service announcements". You need to reach out into the real world i.e. the "public" and make the discussion resonate with life outside of the space community. You know, bad economy, global warming, etc. Until that happens, these ads just sound like they are saying "you should support space because we are inspired by it - and because we work here".

So what do you think?

President Obama kicked off Astronomy Night on the South Lawn of the White House. Some 150 middle school students from the Washington area got to learn more about their universe using more than 20 telescopes provided by NASA and other organizations. They observed Jupiter, the moon and selected stars. Other activities included science presentations with samples of meteorites and moon rocks. NASA's Museum Alliance, a consortium of museums, science centers and planetariums conducted activities worldwide to coincide with the White House event. Astronomy Night helped note the International Year of Astronomy, a global celebration of contributions to society and culture in the 400 years since Galileo first used a telescope.

Student From Howard University Middle School of Math and Science Goes Weightless With Zero Gravity Corporation

"This past weekend Zero Gravity Corporation (ZERO-G(R)), the first and only FAA-approved provider of commercial weightless flights, hosted its exclusive ZERO-G Weightless Experience in Washington D.C. ZERO-G awarded 14-year-old Leaunteen Barnes of Howard University Middle School of Math and Science the Zero Gravity Striving for STEM Excellence Award. ZERO-G awarded Barnes the unique opportunity to experience complete weightlessness after she was recognized by her school as the most improved student."

The GalileoMobile Project

GalileoMobile: Astronomy Education On Tour Through The Andes

"This week marks the beginning of the GalileoMobile Project, a two-month expedition to bring the wonder and excitement of astronomy to young people in Chile, Bolivia and Peru. Supported by ESO and partners, a group of astronomers and educators will travel through a region of the Andes Mountains aboard the GalileoMobile, offering astronomical activities, such as workshops for students and star parties for the general public. Professional filmmakers on the trip will produce a multilingual documentary capturing the thrill of discovery through science, culture and travel. The GalileoMobile is a Special Project of the International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA2009), which is a global celebration commemorating the first use of a telescope to view the Universe by the Italian astronomer Galileo four hundred years ago."

White House Star Party, White House Office of the Press Secretary

Obama's having a star party, Nature

White House Plans Star Party, International Year of Astronomy

President Obama Joins 50 Nations in Celebrating Space and Astronomy During World Space Week

"The White House event for middle-school students will "highlight the President's commitment to science, engineering and math education as the foundation of this nation's global technological and economic leadership," according to a White House statement. "The event will include 20 telescopes on the White House lawn focused on Jupiter, the Moon and select stars; interactive dome presentations; and hands-on activities including scale models of the Solar System," the White House said."

Being Weightless

Teachers Describe What It Is Like To Be Weightless (Video)

"On 2 October 2009 a group of teachers from Washington DC, Virginia, and Maryland participated in Northrop Grumman's "Weightless Flights of Discovery" program. This experience involves flying a series of parabolas aboard Zero Gravity Corp's G Force One jet during which you experience periods of weightlessness. After they returned to Earth, SpaceRef/OnOrbit caught up with two of the teachers, Catherine Bloedorn from Hammond High School in Columbia, Maryland and Jane Carter from Castlewood High School in Castlewood, Virginia and asked them to describe their weightless experience."

Northrop Grumman Foundation Weightless Flights of Discovery Kicks Off Year Four

"The Northrop Grumman Foundation is kicking off the fourth year of its Weightless Flights of Discovery Program, flying a total of 120 science and math teachers on four microgravity flights over the next two weeks. As part of the company's goal to inspire the next generation of scientists, mathematicians and engineers - critical areas of learning and career development where the U.S. has fallen behind globally - the Weightless Flights of Discovery program provides educators with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to prepare for and participate in micro- and zero-gravity flights during which they will test Newton's Laws of Motion with a variety of planned experiments. In addition to Albuquerque, flights are also scheduled in Detroit (Sept. 24), Norwalk, Conn. (Sept. 29), and Washington, D.C. (Oct. 2)."

30 Teachers Representing 4 States to Defy Gravity in Washington, D.C. As Part Of The Northrop Grumman Foundation Weightless Flights Of Discovery



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This page is an archive of entries in the Education category from October 2009.

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