Press Release

Students Learn What It’s Like to be a NASA Engineer, Celebrate Centennial of Flight with Visit to Marshall Center

By SpaceRef Editor
May 28, 2003
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Thirty-five students – chosen from hundreds participating in this year’s
Earth-to-Orbit Design Challenge – are at the Marshall Space Flight Center in
Huntsville, Ala., May 28-30 for a symposium, where Marshall engineers and
education specialists will review their propeller designs. Student and
teacher feedback will be collected and used by Marshall’s Education
Department to refine details and use results as a learning tool for teachers
and students nationwide.

This NASA educational event, keyed to the 100th anniversary of the first
powered airplane flight, is letting school children from around the country
discover the thrill of engineering design.

The design challenge, being conducted by the Marshall Center, connects
students in the classroom with similar types of problems NASA engineers face
as they design the next generation of aerospace vehicles.

This year’s challenge is taking inspiration from history. More than 100
years ago, two boys named Wilbur and Orville Wright received a gift from
their father – a tiny, rubber-band-powered helicopter that fascinated the
boys and spurred their interest in flight. That simple toy inspired the
brothers to design, build, and launch additional flying toys. And it is
generally believed this modest gift ultimately played a role in their design
and successful launch of the first powered airplane flight at Kitty Hawk,
N.C., on Dec. 17, 1903.

One hundred years later, young boys and girls can still discover the thrill
of engineering design. Fostering such youthful creativity, NASA’s Marshall
Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., offers educational programs like
the Earth-to-Orbit engineering design challenge.

This year’s event, Centennial of Flight: Propeller Design Challenge,
connects students in the classroom with similar types of problems NASA
engineers face as they design the next generation of aerospace vehicles. The
current student project was to design, build, test and evaluate a small
propeller, and measure its effectiveness by using a simple test stand which
students also constructed.

NASA provides the project educational materials, which support the National
Research Council’s science education standards in the categories of science
as inquiry, physical science, science and technology as well as math and
thinking skills.

Teachers involved in the design challenge tell stories of how their students
are inspired and energized through the program. For instance:

Jessica Smith and Alexis Miller, sixth-graders at Mill
Middle School in Williamsville, N.Y., were motivated to visit the Niagara
Aerospace Museum in Niagara Falls, N.Y., to search for information on
aviation. There, they learned about two local aviation pioneers, Glenn
Curtiss and Lawrence Bell, and their contributions to aviation. The students
included the research and findings in their report, which will be a part of
their presentation at the Marshall Center, said Kenneth Huff, sixth-grade
science teacher at Mill Middle School.

Chantelle Rose, a science teacher at Graham High School in
St. Paris, Ohio, said two of her students entered their design challenge
project in the school’s science fair. Their project earned the second
highest team score at local and district levels, and received an excellent
rating at the state level. “It was great to see young women competing in an
engineering division,” Rose said, “and they really knew their stuff.”

During their visit to the Marshall Center, the participating students – from
Alabama, Arkansas, California, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas
and Wisconsin – will tour Marshall, as well as the U.S. Space & Rocket
Center in Huntsville, which houses the world’s largest museum of space
artifacts.

NASA uses its unique resources to support educational excellence, since
education is a key element in the Agency’s overall mission. The space agency
participates in educational outreach programs through centers around the
country. More information on educational opportunities with the Marshall
Center can be found at:

http://eto.nasa.gov

SpaceRef staff editor.