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March 15, 2011 > Nationwide technology space competition launches

Nationwide technology space competition launches

Submitted By Sara Peyton

A do-it-yourself technology space competition sponsored by NASA's Emerging Commercialization Space Office (ECSO) kicked off March 1.

MAKE Magazine, a do-it-yourself publication for technology, is partnering with "Teachers in Space" to help develop space science kits that high-school teachers can build and fly on suborbital flights. The project's ultimate goal is to develop the next generation of technology leaders.

The NASA-MAKE competition will be the first of what many hope will be an annual event. It is designed to inspire curiosity and create interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) among classroom teachers and their students. Contenders will be invited to submit ideas, concepts, and prototypes for kits that teachers can build for future spaceflights. Teachers in Space announced the contest recently at the Next Generation Suborbital Research Conference.

"This is a new era in space. We would love to see space become as familiar to students as microscopes, or other principal facilities that enable discovery and understanding," said Dan Rasky, director of ECSO at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field. "This competition will do a lot to put technology know-how in the hands of teachers and students."

Competition rules are simple. Kits should use components that are likely to be available at most high schools, and submitted experiments must be self-contained and fit in a standard Cubesat container (an international standard for small space-science payloads). To make kits accessible to students nationwide, part of the challenge is to be able to build these kits for under $100, the kind of funds that could be raised by a school bake sale.

"The results from this partnership will excite schools and help reverse the decades-long decline in hands-on technology education," said Edward Wright, project manager of Teachers in Space. "The NASA-sponsored competition will bring enormous creativity and intellectual assets to the table."

The first experiment kits to be selected will fly aboard the Excelsior STEM mission, a commercial unmanned suborbital mission sponsored by Teachers in Space and scheduled to fly in 2011. Experiment kits for the Excelsior STEM mission will be assembled by teachers at a Suborbital Flight Experiment Workshop to be held August 1-5 at the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center's AERO Institute in Palmdale.

This workshop and the Excelsior STEM mission provide a historic opportunity for high-school teachers to gain hands-on experience with space-flight hardware.

"MAKE Magazine believes the NASA-Make challenge is important. It will provide an opportunity for makers and students to participate in the exploration of space and make a real contribution," said Dale Dougherty, editor of MAKE Magazine, Sebastopol.

The winner of the NASA-Make Challenge will be honored at the Bay Area Maker Faire, May 21-22 in San Mateo.

For more information about the NASA-MAKE Challenge, visit: http://makezine.com/space.

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