Education: November 2011 Archives

TEDxNASAJSC Women

"Starting at 9a, Speakers from around the center will talk about inspiring students, innovation, and new scientific discoveries. Astronauts Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger and Cadie Coleman will share their perspectives about Earth and space."

Keith's note: You would think that an event like this would be something that NASA would want to share across the entire agency - indeed, with the general public as well. How hard would it be to webcast this? I am baffled as to why things like this end up as choir practice and internal pep rallies and not part of NASA's overall Education and Public Outreach (EPO) activity.

Keith's update: According to a comment from "pamspace": "We'd love for the public to tune in! We are working the final kinks out of our webstreaming process today and do plan to Livestream our event here: http://www.livestream.com/tedxnasajsc. We have a backup plan if this path doesn't work and will post an update if needed. Looking forward to a great event!"

Keith's note:There is another TEDxNASA event today - hosted by NASA Langley. This event was only publicly announced three days in advance, well after the "invitation only" attendees were selected. Taxpayers across the region were not given a chance to attend. There is no mention of this event at NASA's Office of Education webpage, at NASA.gov or the NASA.gov event calendar, the NASA.gov students page,or in the most recent issue of NASA Education Express. One would think that an expensive education-oriented event such as this would be worthy of coordination with NASA's Education Office. In the press release issued only 3 days before the event no mention is made of how media can attend, no provisions for the hearing impaired (interperter, captioning, etc) are mentioned, and it is being held at a time when most people are taking time off i.e. on a weekend. And since it is being held on a weekend, why couldn't this have been aired live on NASA TV? All that is on the schedule is re-airing of things that happened last week.

Despite having hosted several TEDxNASA events in the past, no emails were sent to previous TEDxNASA participants. The agenda is not easy to find either - NASA does not list it. I stumbled across it here on another organization's website. What has ANY of this to do with space exploration? If this is only about STEM education sans any space component, then why is NASA doing this to begin with - and not the Department of Education? Are there any attendees from Northern Virginia? Any home schooled students? Any disabled students?

To be certain, it is nice that Lesa Roe and Steve Craft are interested in education, etc. But they repeatedly avoid the common sense, PR 101 aspects of these TEDxNASA events and therefore pass on a chance to leverage these things to the advantage of the entire agency and people who do not live in Hampton, Virginia.

Photos: Robonaut-2 Gestures In Space

Keith's note: I have seen Robonaut-2 in action and its dexterity is interesting - and rather facile. So ... how could NASA demonstrate this dexterity in new ways, make it a little more "human" or approachable, - and reach a new segment of the populace that is normally overlooked? Program it to use Sign Language. Background: I worked for more than a decade as a professional certified (educational) sign language interpreter. This idea occurred to me when I was looking at this picture and instantly wondered what Robonaut-2 "wanted" or why it was seemingly in the process of saying "here" or maybe "give". Imagine how fast a video of Robonaut-2 saying something in American Sign Language from space would go viral. NASA could have a competition wherein people submit questions for it to answer. NASA already has a signing astronaut and SMD and NLSI already put out books in Braille. Just a thought.

P.S. Maybe he could repeat what that alien signed in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" (video). If you watch that scene, the alien that is signing actually moves its hand like Robonaut does. I first saw this film when it came out with my hearing impaired roommates - none of us knew that aliens were going to sign so we all freaked out when one of them did. Of course, it was natural to us that all aliens would know how to sign - since they all already speak English, right?

Obama nixes federal swag, Politico

"On Wednesday, Obama signed an executive order that will direct government agencies to, among other things, "stop using taxpayer dollars to buy swag." What exactly falls under the category of "swag"? Plaques, "nonessential items used for promotional purposes" like clothing, pens and mugs, and "other unnecessary promotional items that agencies purchase," according to the White House, which did not respond to multiple requests for more details about the "swag" and its cost."

Executive Order -- Promoting Efficient Spending, White House

"Sec. 7. Extraneous Promotional Items. Agencies should limit the purchase of promotional items (e.g., plaques, clothing, and commemorative items), in particular where they are not cost-effective."

NASA solicitation: Drawstring Backpack Wooden pencils and jumbo pens

"NASA/LaRC has a requirement for Drawstring Backpack, Qty: 12,000 EA in accordance the attached requirements: Round Wooden Pencils, Qty: 10,000 EA in accordance with the attached requirements and Ink Pens, Qty: 10,000 EA in accordance with the attached requirements."

NASA solicitation: NASA educational outreach items

"NASA/LaRC has a requirement for various educational, outreach items with the NASA logo: Astronaut stress reliever, Earth squeeze ball, Drawstring backpack ..."

Keith's note: NASA buys this give-away crap in huge quantities without any notion as to whether its distribution accomplishes anything of value to the agency or to the individuals who receive it. All too often NASA staff end up throwing a lot of it away because it is cheaper than shipping it back to their office after an event. ESMD and SOMD are among the worst offenders. And now with the merger of ESMD and SOMD much of it will get pulped because the mail codes have changed. Remember all of that Constellation stuff ... I have asked HEOMD's Beth Beck more than once for her "plan" for EPO and the metrics she uses to measure its effectiveness. She has never bothered to reply. Its is obvious that there is no plan - nor are there any metrics. Nor does she seem to be at all bothered by this situation. The same is true across the agency. To make things worse - no one coordinates anything. The net result is both duplication and competition.

If NASA actually had a coherent education and public outreach activity that spanned all directorates, projects, missions, and field centers - one that adhered to a clear, cohesive strategy - and was measured and evaluated with metrics, I would suspect that the expenditure of these EPO funds would result in something of tangible value. Alas, just watch as NASA finds a way to evade the intent of this executive order and continues to spew these useless trinkets under the misimpression that they actually have value.


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This page is an archive of entries in the Education category from November 2011.

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