ARISS Excited by New Proposal Process
Earlier this year, the education office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) sent a message to more than 18,000 US educators, describing the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) program. This kicked off the first step in a new process used by the ARISS team in selecting US schools for ARISS educational events, such as an Amateur Radio contact between the ISS and the classroom. Early last fall, staff from JSC’s Teaching From Space (TFS) program approached ARISS leaders, looking to revise how they work with schools in order to greatly increase the number of educators who know about ARISS.
According to ARRL ARISS Program Manager Rosalie White, K1STO, the ARISS team has worked steadily for the past six months on an end-to-end transition for the new proposal process. The work began last October with ARRL Education Services Manager Debra Johnson, K1DMJ, hosting a meeting at ARRL Headquarters for representatives from NASA, ARRL and AMSAT. In May, White and four NASA and AMSAT team members met in Maryland for a two day meeting to hammer out the final details.
In its invitation, NASA gave educators two months -- from May 15 to July 15 -- to submit proposals, with the best proposals earning an ARISS educational radio contact. “When the TFS staff tallied the numbers the morning after deadline day, the ARISS team cheered its success,” White said. “The TFS office received and responded to a whopping total of 113 educator inquiries asking for submittal details. They received 24 completed proposals from US educators by the deadline. Additionally, TFS reports that since July 15, educators have called asking if they can submit their proposals late. The TFS staff encouraged these educators to submit a proposal during the next window of opportunity, which begins six months from now.”
White said that the ARISS team was not too sure about the response the invitation would garner, and could only guess what level of interest educators would display. In early July, only a few proposals had trickled in, but when the team heard the final numbers, both the TFS staff and the ARISS team were pleased with the results
Educators Positively Respond to ARISS Mission
“Each interested educator submitted a comprehensive proposal, with the ARISS contact being one of many components related to NASA and ARRL education content, White explained. “Educators had to plan creative ways to maximize student experience.” A NASA/ARISS team will now review the submitted proposals and by September, they will together choose the best ones, based on a set of standards. Selected schools can immediately begin implementing their educational plans, and ARISS Mentors will volunteer to assist schools with the radio contact.
Educators are aware that if they are selected, their ARISS ISS-to-school contacts will be scheduled between January and June 2012. According to White, the new ARISS proposal system does away with a long wait and gives educators a definite time frame for when to start their series of related lessons.
If the educators have not yet located Amateur Radio operators in their town, the ARRL and AMSAT will aid educators in finding local amateurs who are experienced in amateur satellite operations who can help plan how to set up a temporary -- or even permanent -- amateur satellite station in the school. These mentors may also be able to help mentor the Amateur Radio-related lessons. If the ISS footprint doesn’t reach the particular town, or if a school sits in a remote area where no Amateur Radio satellite operators live, ARISS can schedule a telebridge-assisted QSO.
“The overall objective of ARISS is to inspire an interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and in STEM careers among young people, using NASA missions and resources,” White said. “The ARISS team and the TFS staff also hope that the new proposal process will also result a more consistent level of robust educational outcomes from all US schools hosting ARISS education contacts, as well as have ARISS’ processes aligned with all other NASA education program processes.”
White said that the ARISS partners in the US hope the better integration of resources through this new proposal process -- and the increased emphasis on educational outcomes -- will help provide and encourage teachers to use resources related to wireless technology and Amateur Radio. They also hope that greater visibility will create more opportunity for Amateur Radio experimentation of new technologies, as well as provide more educational opportunity for students, teachers and the general public to learn about space exploration, space technologies and Amateur Radio communications.
A New Process -- A Good Thing
“Progressing through the first parts of the new ARISS proposal process showed that educators continue to hold a high interest in having their students learn about space and wireless technology,” White notes. “Amateur Radio realizes many benefits from the new process. Every six months, 18,000 more educators will hear about ARISS and Amateur Radio.”