There has been much said about the need for more students to go into STEM fields and the difficulty of exciting the public about space.
I’ve had opportunities to talk with kids about what got me excited about space and with space professionals and educators at conferences about how engineers can participate in inspiring the next generation. A common idea is we don’t want to reinvent the wheel.
In order for engineers to effectively support educators in showing what is so cool about space (because who better than the people who love space!), it helps to have a starting idea to build upon and tailor to the audience. To that end, here is a collection of links to ideas and supporting material for existing ideas.
Citizen Science (What?)
Citizen Science is a growing movement that matches internet users with research groups. By crowd sourcing, the research gains many eyes on a project and users can participate from home. One of the largest platforms is Zooniverse, which started with the Galaxy Zoo project. FoldIt is a protein folding game. Some users are better at protein folding than the researchers themselves!
On a Non-Zero Budget
There are many kits in the low 100s. These are great for classrooms or at home. Hexy is a six-legged programmable robot with an active user community. NanoSatisfi lets people upload code to one of their cubesats and run experiments in space. Both challenge the paradigm that robotics and satellites are expensive and unavailable to the public through accessible platforms. Incidentally, both got started with Kickstarter campaigns. Lego Mindstorms are used all over the world as a great introduction to robotics through a familiar platform.
NASA has a variety of educational programs, competitions, and events. These websites have ideas for teachers and contact information for engaging directly with NASA scientists and engineers.
More links and ideas to come!