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NASA and ARISS Reach Out to Educators


On May 19, the Education Office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center’s (JSC) notified almost 20,000 US educators about the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) Project. According to ARRL ARISS Program Manager Rosalie White, K1STO, this kicks off the first of a number of new processes that the ARISS US team will put into motion to get educators more involved in the program, which coordinates Amateur Radio contacts between the ISS and educational institutions around the world.

“These changes were first discussed in the last quarter of 2010 when NASA’s JSC staff asked ARISS leaders to revise how it works with schools,” White said. “The JSC Education Office’s Teaching From Space (TFS) staff oversees ARISS, as well as a number of other education programs. We have found that only a very small number of educators know about ARISS, and that only happens when a radio amateur initiates a discussion with educators about the possibility of such a contact.”

White said that in October 2010, ARRL Education Services Manager Debra Johnson, K1DMJ hosted a two-day meeting at ARRL Headquarters for NASA, ARISS and AMSAT-NA. This meeting, sponsored by NASA TFS, focused on setting up a new proposal process for how US schools apply to have a QSO with the ISS.

The objectives for the new process are:

  • To attain a more consistent level of robust educational outcomes from all US schools that host ARISS education radio contacts.
  • To ensure that all NASA education programs follow a similar process.
  • To reach thousands of educators to tell them about the educational benefits of ARISS.

At the meeting, personnel from the ARRL, AMSAT and NASA confirmed that the first and foremost goal of ARISS is “to inspire an interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects and in STEM careers among young people, using NASA missions and resources.” The meeting participants agreed that they would implement a new ARISS proposal process, ensuring that this goal would be met. Related goals include:

  • Providing an educational opportunity for students, teachers and the general public to learn about space exploration, space technologies and Amateur Radio communications.
  • Providing resources related to wireless technology and Amateur Radio to assist teachers who teach STEM subjects.
  • Providing an opportunity for Amateur Radio experimentation and evaluation of new technologies.

“On May 19, NASA sent an invitation to 18,000 educators (see link below), telling them where to find details on how to submit an ARISS education proposal,” White explained. “There will be two windows of opportunity each year for educators to submit their proposals. The first window opened on May 19 and will close on July 15, 2011. Interested educators need to forward a comprehensive proposal, of which the ARISS contact is one of many components. The proposal should integrate NASA education and ARRL content with surrounding education activities, and include creative ways to maximize the reach of the ARISS contact and the experience for students. The educator must describe the instructional activities and lessons to be engaged in with students as part of the learning and preparation for the ARISS contact, and should include study topics related to space technology, space exploration or space research, as well as Amateur Radio, radio science and wireless communications technology.” ARISS astronaut contacts under the new processes will begin in January 2012 and end in July 2012. A window of opportunity will open every six months when another NASA news release goes to educators.

After teachers submit their proposals, White said that a NASA/ARISS team will review the submissions, with the evaluation based on a set of standards. The team will choose the best proposals by September 2011. Selected schools can immediately begin implementing their educational plans, and, as always, ARISS Mentors will step up to volunteer for particular schools.

“The ARRL and AMSAT have promised to aid educators in finding local Amateur Radio operators, in particular, those experienced in satellite ops and who are able to help plan how to set up a temporary -- or permanent -- Amateur Radio satellite station in the school,” White said. “If the orbital footprint of the ISS doesn’t reach the school’s location, or if the school is in a remote area where no satellite Amateur Radio operators live, ARISS can schedule a telebridge-assisted QSO, but the ARRL and AMSAT would still find area hams to assist teachers with Amateur Radio lesson topics.”

White said that Amateur Radio gains a great deal with this new ARISS processes: “In the past, educators only found out about ARISS and Amateur Radio if an Amateur Radio operator knew of a techy-type teacher and managed to set up a meeting at the school. Or sometimes a gung-ho educator heard about ARISS at a NASA workshop. Now, thousands of educators have received NASA’s message about ARISS and Amateur Radio -- thousands whom Amateur Radio could never have touched otherwise.”

If you know an innovative educator, have them visit the Teaching from Space ARISS website. They can get proposal details by contacting the NASA Teaching From Space office via e-mail or by phone at (281) 244-2320.



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