LANSING – Parachutes to Mars. Pressurized spacesuits. Foldable plant growth chambers and model exploration vehicles for space. These engineering feats are the focus of about 150 problem-solving Michigan middle-schoolers as part of an annual NASA educational program.
NASA’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) and Investigations has developed four STEM challenges based on real-mission data and experiences that occur during human and robotic space exploration of our solar system. A separate challenge, the Global Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) Science Investigation, focuses on science protocols.
In collaboration with the U.S. and Michigan departments of Education, NASA’s program is designed to connect middle-school students in 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) in Michigan and nine other states with NASA scientist and engineer mentors to solve real-time challenges.
The 21st CCLCs provide academic enrichment during out-of-school time for students and their families, particularly students who attend schools in some of the nation’s highest-need communities.
This year’s Michigan participants are from Grand Rapids Public Schools, Genesee School District, Kalamazoo Public Schools, Kentwood Public Schools, Muskegon Public Schools, Mt. Morris Consolidated Schools, Wayne-Westland Community School District, and Westwood Heights Schools.
“I’m proud to say that Michigan has been included to this prestigious national challenge all four times it’s been offered,” State Superintendent Brian Whiston said. “Students learn firsthand about innovation, problem-solving and teamwork in the STEM fields – skills that are critical to Michigan becoming a Top 10 education state in 10 years.”
Students will showcase their end products, such as actual parachute designs, at Michigan’s 21st CCLC NASA STEM Challenge Showcase from 3-5 p.m. Thursday, March 30, 2017, at the Impression 5 Science Center, 200 Museum Drive in Lansing.
NASA Glenn Research Center representatives and a NASA engineer will be on hand.
The event does not designate winners or losers; instead NASA recognizes all participants. In past events, NASA put students’ names into a capsule that will be stowed aboard a future space mission. The U.S. Department of Education funds the events.
For more information about the program, visit https://y4y.ed.gov/stemchallenge/nasa.