Education: July 2010 Archives

Cheaper, Better Satellites Made From Cellphones and Toys, Wired

"Instead of investing in their own computer research and development, engineers at the NASA Ames Research Center are looking to cellphones and off-the-shelf toys to power the future of low-cost satellite technology. The smartphone in your pocket has about 120 times more computing power than the average satellite, which has the equivalent of a 1984-era computer inside. "You can go to Walmart and buy toys that work better than satellites did 20 years ago," said NASA physicist Chris Boshuizen. "And your cellphone is really a $500 robot in your pocket that can't get around. A lot of the real innovation now happens in entertainment and cellphone technology, and NASA should be going forward with their stuff."

Video from a Google NexusOne smartphone with specially programmed Android apps, installed aboard James Dougherty's Intimidator-5 on a CTI N4100 load. Launch from Black Rock Playa on 24-July-2010 thanks to Maverick Civilian Space Foundation.

Keith's note: I feel compelled to feature this masterful video by Karen Lau and David Sanders at least once a year. This was done when Craig Steidle ran ESMD. For a brief moment, they "got it".

So folks, drop the petty internal and external politics, and think big picture - just for a moment.

I don't see this sort of thinking at NASA any more. NASA will go nowhere unless it finds its mojo again.

Conrad Foundation & ManSat Limited Expand the Spirit and Innovation Awards program on International Stage

"Officials with The Conrad Foundation today announced ManSat Limited, a global commercial space corporation headquartered on the Isle of Man , has joined with the Conrad Foundation to expand the 2010-2011 Spirit of Innovation Awards program on the international stage. ManSat will sponsor a national competition on the Isle of Man from which one finalist team will participate in the annual awards competition, which gives high school students the opportunity to design, develop and commercialize innovative products that help solve challenges of the 21st century."

Signing From Orbit

NASA Astronaut Sends First Signed Message from Orbit

"The number of languages used on the International Space Station has recently increased. In addition to those spoken in the 15 countries that have had representatives aboard the space station, American Sign Language, or ASL, is now included. NASA astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson has sent a message in ASL from the station to the deaf community."

Keith's note: As a former professional Sign Language interpreter myself (mid-70s to early 80s), stories like this certainly get my attention. As such, I do not mean to detract from this but, this is not the first time that an astronaut has signed a message in space for use back on Earth. It may well be the first video downlinked live with signing, however. According to former astronaut Bill Readdy, he signed a short message on STS-42 back in 1992 (see YouTube video from CollectSpace below). The was not downlinked live but It was recorded and later appeared on a Gallaudet University's TV show "Deaf Mosaic". Bill still remembers some of the signs to this day. That said, this recent video is cool and is exactly the sort of thing NASA should be encouraged to do in the future so as to broaden its ability to interact with all citizens.

What will inspire tomorrow's rocket scientists?, CNN

"President Barack Obama's NASA proposal currently being scrutinized by Congress focuses on researching propulsion for deep space and asteroid landings. It scraps the Constellation Project, which was launched six years ago with the aim of sending humans to Mars and back to the moon. The proposal would also halt NASA shuttle launches to the International Space Station. Instead, federal funds would be used to help send U.S. commercial shuttles to the station. Clark Moody, who remembers watching NASA videos with his dad in the 1980s, is a graduate student in aerospace engineering at Texas A&M University. He worries that NASA's other feats could be lost on the general public without the highly visible human spaceflight endeavors."

- NASA GRC Solicitation: Purchase of Billboard Space for Educational Information: billboard # 1204
- NASA GRC Solicitation: Purchase of Billboard Space for Educational Information: billboard #222
- NASA GRC Solicitation: Purchase of Billboard Space for Educational Information: Cleveland Hopkins Airport

"NASA/GRC has a requirement for the purchase of display units located at the "Arrival" and "Exit" walls at Cleveland Hopkins Airport, Cleveland, OH. These displays will be used for education and information purposes and will be available to us for a period of eight (8) weeks."

- It May Be Too Late for GRC to Advertise, earlier post
- Got Space?, earlier post

Keith's note: It is not that I don't think NASA should do more to present its value to the taxpayers (they should), but I find it rather curious that Congress is directing NASA to market itself to the American public - and that Congress is doing so after years of chastising NASA for trying to market itself to Congress - directly or indirectly - and even putting prohibitions on advertising, marketing, etc. into law. This is really confusing given that Congress is supposed to serve the the public in the first place. How better to do that than to say "hey, come over here and look at this". If GRC can get away with overt advertising (billboards are rather large after all) then why can't other NASA centers do this?

NASA Takes Gamers on a Lunar Adventure With New Online Video Game

"NASA has given gamers a taste of lunar adventure with release of Moonbase Alpha, an exciting new, free online video game. - It is the first game in NASA's Learning Technologies project. The project supports the delivery of NASA content through interactive technologies such as virtual worlds, games and software applications to enhance science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, education. - Moonbase Alpha is a precursor to a planned NASA-based massively, multiplayer online game project. The project is being designed to have content and missions that require players to gain and demonstrate STEM knowledge to succeed."

Survey: Apple Notebooks Favorite in College Dorms, Cultofmac

"As college students prepare to return to the classrooms, many of them are carrying an Apple laptop. An Apple MacBook is favored by 47 percent for those college students who've yet to purchase a computer and 27 percent of students who already own a laptop are fans of the Cupertino, California company. As Fortune points out, this is a complete turn-around from 2005, when 47 percent of laptop buyers chose Dell. This year, Dell is the No. 2 (24 percent) laptop brand chosen for college dorms, followed by HP with 15 percent of the college market and Toshiba with 10 percent, according to research firm Student Monitor, a New Jersey firm who has been doing these surveys for nearly a quarter century."

Keith's note: Alas, this game only works on Windows-based computers. This is rather surprising given the large (and growing) market percentage of Mac OS computers in schools and the rising popularity of iOS platforms such as iPad and iPhone, and those devices running Android OS as well as Linux, Ubuntu, etc. Sure, you can go through extra hoops to make it run on a Mac by booting your Intel-based Mac in Windows, but there is no reason why the developers cannot make it easy - instead of hard for people to run this on the computers they use. The whole idea is to enlarge the audience for what NASA does, not limit it. Alas, if you go to the game's official website there is no page or link that leads you to information about what other platforms will be supported and when. Yet if you go to their Facebook page there is a note that says "No other platforms currently planned." FAIL.

On a Facebook Discussion thread, Ryan Hayle notes: "I have submitted the following email to several contacts at NASA and Virtual Heroes demanding the immediate release of Moonbase Alpha under an Open Source License. ... It is simply not acceptable for a government agency to release a product funded by our tax dollars which requires the purchase of an expensive, proprietary operating system from a single private corporation. ... While I can understand if you do not have the resources to invest in releasing a Linux version of the product at this time, I must insist that you release all of the source code, artwork and any other associated data files for this game to the American public immediately under an Open Source license. I am confident that we will be able to port this product to function on Linux, Mac OS and other operating systems, sharing our work back with our fellow citizens in a true spirit of cooperation."

Indeed, if NASA were to do what Ryan suggests, then you might suddenly find this game being used all over the world. Isn't this what the President wants NASA to do?

Keith's update: According to Ann Marie Trotta at NASA PAO: "As mentioned in the press release, the initial release of Moonbase Alpha is a proof-of-concept endeavor. To stay within allocated resources for this trial, NASA opted to release it for the broadest online population, which uses the PC/Windows platform. The agency already is planning to expand to a broader application base for future games."

USRA Welcomes the First UAE Student Interns to NASA's Education Associates Program, USRA

"Under a 3-year agreement between NASA and the non-profit Arab Youth Venture Foundation (AYVF), up to 12 UAE students per year will be participating in the EAP. The initial group of three students (Shamma Al Qassim, Hazza Bani Malek, and Hamad Rajab) arrived in mid-June to begin a 10-week internship at NASA's Ames Research Center. The students will be working on a variety of projects including the space shuttle and International Space Station, deep space missions, solar system exploration, and aeronautics research."


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This page is an archive of entries in the Education category from July 2010.

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