On #WorldTeachersDay, we are recognizing our two current astronauts who are former classroom teachers, Joe Acaba and Ricky Arnold, as well as honoring teachers everywhere. What better way to celebrate than by learning from teachers who are literally out-of-this-world!
During the past Year of Education on Station, astronauts connected with more than 175,000 students and 40,000 teachers during live Q & A sessions.
Let’s take a look at some of the questions those students asked:
The view from space is supposed to be amazing. Is it really that great and could you explain?
Taking a look at our home planet from the International Space Station is one of the most fascinating things to see! The views and vistas are unforgettable, and you want to take everyone you know to the Cupola (window) to experience this. Want to see what the view is like? Check out earthkam to learn more.
What is the most overlooked attribute of an astronaut?
If you are a good listener and follower, you can be successful on the space station. As you work with your team, you can rely on each other’s strengths to achieve a common goal. Each astronaut needs to have expeditionary skills to be successful. Check out some of those skills here.
Are you able to grow any plants on the International Space Station?
This year, we’re celebrating a Year of Education on the Station as astronauts and former teachers Joe Acaba and Ricky Arnold have made the International Space Station their home. While aboard, they have been sharing their love of science, technology, engineering and math, along with their passion for teaching. With the Year of Education on the Station is coming to a close, here are some of the highlights from students speaking to the #TeacherOnBoard from across the country!
Why do you feel it’s important to complete Christa McAuliffe’s lessons?
“The loss of Challenger not only affected a generation of school teachers but also a generation of school children who are now adults.”Ricky’s personal mission was to bring the Challenger Mission full circle and give it a sense of closure by teaching Christa’s Lost Lessons. See some of Christa’s Lost Lessons here.
Have you ever poured water out to see what happens?
The concept of surface tension is very apparent on the space station. Fluids do not spill out, they stick to each other. Cool fact: you can drink your fluids from the palm of your hand if you wanted to! Take a look at this demonstration that talks a little more about tension.
How does your equipment stay attached to the wall?
The use of bungee cords as well as hook and loop help keep things in place in a microgravity environment. These two items can be found on the space station and on the astronaut’s clothing! Their pants often have hook and loop so they can keep things nearby if they need to be using their hands for something else.
Did being a teacher provide any advantage to being an astronaut?
Being an effective communicator and having the ability to be adaptable are great skills to have as a teacher and as an astronaut. Joe Acaba has found that these skills have assisted him in his professional development.
Since you do not use your bones and muscles as often because of microgravity, do you have to exercise? What type can you do?
The exercises that astronauts do aboard the space station help them maintain their bone density and muscle mass. They have access to resistance training through ARED (Advanced Resistive Exercise Device) which is a weight machine and for cardio, there is a bicycle and treadmill available to keep up with their physical activity.
Sending humans to space, returning to the Moon, transforming aircraft, exploring the extraordinary every day: just a few things you are a part of as a NASA intern. Whether you have dreamed of working at the agency your whole life, or discovered a new interest, students at NASA have the opportunity to make real contributions to space exploration and flight. Want to know more? Here are five ways these internships can be rocket fuel for your career:
5. NASA gives you a navigation system.
Imagine walking into a lab to work side-by-side with NASA scientists, engineers and researchers. As a NASA intern, that’s a daily reality. Mentors are full-time employees who guide and work with students throughout their internship. Space communications intern Nick Sia believes working with a mentor is what makes NASA’s internships different. “Working one-on-one has given me more opportunities to work on different projects,” he says. “It’s the best motivation to do great work.”
4. It’s more than training for launch day.
As a NASA intern, your work matters. Students are treated as employees, and their ideas are valued. Hands-on assignments allow interns to make real contributions to NASA research and gain experience. For example, Erin Rezich is working in our mobility lab to help design excavation hardware for planetary surfaces such as the Moon. “It’s an incredibly exciting project because these are problems that have to be solved to move planetary exploration forward,” she says.
3. Students develop an array of skills.
Not only do interns improve their technical skills, but they are also building communication and leadership skills. This summer, students are taking part in a two-week immersive design challenge. Participants will design a Ram Air Turbine for NASA Glenn’s 1×1 Supersonic Wind Tunnel. “This design challenge is a unique opportunity to create a design from scratch, which could actually be implemented,” says Woodrow Funk, an electrical testing engineer intern. Projects such as this allow students to work independently, plan, organize and improve time management skills.
2. Non-technical degrees shoot for the stars.
NASA also offers many opportunities for students pursuing a career outside of STEM fields. Departments such as human resources, administration, education and communications engage students with hands-on projects. These organizations provide support essential to NASA’s programs and missions. “I was excited that NASA offered opportunities that match my skill set,” says Molly Kearns, a digital media student working with Space Communications and Navigation. Kearns’ first summer at NASA confirmed her passion for graphic design. “What makes the experience so rewarding is seeing content that I created published on social media sites,” she says.
1. Students are surrounded by extraordinary peers.
Students come to NASA from all over the nation to develop important skills matched to their career goals and expand the way they think about their work. Being surrounded by the best scientists, developers, engineers, mathematicians and communicators is inspiring. NASA’s network is one of graduate fellow Jamesa Stokes’ main motivations. “There are tons of smart and awesome people who work here,” says Stokes, “At the end of the day, they are willing to help anyone who comes and asks for it.”
Are you ready to liftoff your career? Learn more about opportunities for students at NASA here.
Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com. On March 14, we will join people across the U.S. as they celebrate an icon of nerd culture: the number pi.
So well known and beloved is pi, also written π or 3.14, that it has a national holiday named in its honor. And it’s not just for mathematicians and rocket scientists. National Pi Day is widely celebrated among students, teachers and science fans, too. Read on to find out what makes pi so special, how it’s used to explore space and how you can join the celebration with resources from our collection.
1—Remind me, what is pi?
Pi, also written π, is the Swiss Army knife of numbers. No matter how big or small a circle – from the size of our universe all the way down to an atom or smaller – the ratio of a circle’s circumference (the distance around it) to its diameter (the distance across it) is always equal to pi. Most commonly, pi is used to answer questions about anything circular or spherical, so it comes in handy especially when you’re dealing with space exploration.
2—How much pi do you need?
For simplicity, pi is often rounded to 3.14, but its digits go on forever and don’t appear to have any repeating patterns. While people have made it a challenge to memorize record-breaking digits of pi or create computer programs to calculate them, you really don’t need that many digits for most calculations – even at NASA. Here’s one of our engineers on how many decimals of pi you need.
Pi pops up in everything from rocket-science-level math to the stuff you learn in elementary school, so it’s gained a sort of cult following. On March 14 (or 3/14 in U.S. date format) in 1988, a physicist at the San Francisco Exploratorium held what is thought to be the first official Pi Day celebration, which smartly included the consumption of fruit pies. Math teachers quickly realized the potential benefits of teaching students about pi while they ate pie, and it all caught on so much that in 2009, the U.S. Congress officially declared March 14 National Pi Day. Here’s how to turn your celebration into a teachable moment.
4—Pi helps us explore space!
Space is full of circular and spherical features, and to explore them, engineers at NASA build spacecraft that make elliptical orbits and guzzle fuel from cylindrical fuel tanks, and measure distances on circular wheels. Beyond measurements and space travel, pi is used to find out what planets are made of and how deep alien oceans are, and to study newly discovered worlds. In other words, pi goes a long way at NASA.
5—Not just for rocket scientists.
No Pi Day is complete without a little problem solving. Even the math-averse will find something to love about this illustrated math challenge that features real questions scientists and engineers must answer to explore and study space – like how to determine the size of a distant planet you can’t actually see. Four new problems are added to the challenge each year and answers are released the day after Pi Day.
For teachers, the question is not whether to celebrate Pi Day, but how to celebrate it. (And how much pie is too much? Answer: The limit does not exist.) Luckily, our Education Office has an online catalog for teachers with all 20 of its “Pi in the Sky” math challenge questions for grades 4-12. Each lesson includes a description of the real-world science and engineering behind the problem, an illustrated handout and answer key, and a list of applicable Common Core Math and Next Generation Science Standards.
7—How Do We celebrate?
In a way, we celebrate Pi Day every day by using pi to explore space. But in our free time, we’ve been known to make and eat space-themed pies, too! Share your own nerdy celebrations with us here.
8—A pop-culture icon.
The fascination with pi, as well its popularity and accessibility have made it a go-to math reference in books, movies and television. Ellie, the protagonist in Carl Sagan’s book “Contact,” finds a hidden message from aliens in the digits of pi. In the original “Star Trek” series, Spock commanded an alien entity that had taken over the computer to compute pi to the last digit – an impossible task given that the digits of pi are infinite. And writers of “The Simpsons,” a show known for referencing math, created an episode in which Apu claims to know pi to 40,000 digits and proves it by stating that the 40,000th digit is 1.
9—A numbers game.
Calculating record digits of pi has been a pastime of mathematicians for millennia. Until the 1900s, these calculations were done by hand and reached records in the 500s. Once computers came onto the scene, that number jumped into the thousands, millions and now trillions. Scientist and pi enthusiast Peter Trueb holds the current record – 22,459,157,718,361 digits – which took his homemade computer 105 days of around-the-clock number crunching to achieve. The record for the other favorite pastime of pi enthusiasts, memorizing digits of pi, stands at 70,030.
10—Time to throw in the tau?
As passionate as people are about pi, there are some who believe things would be a whole lot better if we replaced pi with a number called tau, which is equal to 2π or 6.28. Because many formulas call for 2π, tau-enthusiasts say tau would provide a more elegant and efficient way to express those formulas. Every year on Pi Day, a small debate ensues. While we won’t take sides, we will say that pi is more widely used at NASA because it has applications far beyond geometry, where 2π is found most often. Perhaps most important, though, for pi- and pie-lovers alike is there’s no delicious homonym for tau.
Many adults are put off when youngsters pose scientific questions. Children ask why the sun is yellow, or what a dream is, or how deep you can dig a hole, or when is the world’s birthday, or why we have toes.
Too many teachers and parents answer with irritation or ridicule, or quickly move on to something else. Why adults should pretend to omniscience before a five-year-old, I can’t for the life of me understand. What’s wrong with admitting that you don’t know? Children soon recognize that somehow this kind of question annoys many adults. A few more experiences like this, and another child has been lost to science.
There are many better responses. If we have an idea of the answer, we could try to explain. If we don’t, we could go to the encyclopedia or the library. Or we might say to the child: “I don’t know the answer. Maybe no one knows. Maybe when you grow up, you’ll be the first to find out.
Need help with your science homework? We’ve got you covered! Here are some out-of-this world (pun intended) resources for your science and space questions.
Let’s take a look…
NASA Space Place
From questions like “Why does Saturn have rings?” to games that allow you to explore different galaxies, NASA Space Place has a variety of content for elementary-age kids, parents and anyone who likes science and technology topics.
Want to get NASA Education materials for your classroom? Click HERE.
A Year of Education on the International Space Station
Although on different crews, astronauts Joe Acaba and Ricky Arnold – both former teachers – will work aboard the International Space Station. K-12 and higher education students and educators can do NASA STEM activities related to the station and its role in our journey to Mars. Click HERE for more.
Sally Ride EarthKAM
Also on the International Space Station, the Sally Ride EarthKAM @ Space Camp allows students to program a digital camera on board the space station to photograph a variety of geographical targets for study in the classroom.
Registration is now open until Sept. 25 for the Sept. 26-30 mission. Click HERE for more.
NASA eClips™ are short, relevant educational video segments. These videos inspire and engage students, helping them see real world connections by exploring current applications of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, topics. The programs are produced for targeted audiences: K-5, 6-8, 9-12 and the general public.
Space Operations Learning Center
The Space Operations Learning Center teaches school-aged students the basic concepts of space operations using the web to present this educational content in a fun and engaging way for all grade levels. With fourteen modules, there’s lots to explore for all ages.
The Mars Fun Zone
The Mars Fun Zone is a compilation of Red Planet-related materials that engage the explorer inside every kid through activities, games, and educational moments.
Fly Away with NASA Aeronautics
Frequent flyer or getting ready to earn your first set of wings? From children’s books for story time to interactive flight games, we’ve got Aeronautics activities for students of all ages that are sure to inspire future scientists, mathematicians and engineers.
On Pinterest? We have a board that highlights NASA science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) lessons, activities, tools and resources for teachers, educators and parents.