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Two Michigan Schools Win NASA Challenge

January 13, 2014

LANSING – Students at two Michigan middle schools are out of this world when it comes to helping NASA solve several vexing space exploration problems. 

NASA and the U.S. Department of Education chose Michigan and two other states to participate in a challenge designed to launch student excitement in NASA STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) content as part of 21st Century Community Learning Center (CCLC) programs.

“As someone who strongly supports STEM and education technology in Michigan schools, I am pleased that two Michigan schools have been named among only four finalists participating in this 21st CCLC pilot project,” said State Superintendent Mike Flanagan. “As part of the challenge, students had opportunities to connect with NASA scientists and engineers to get feedback on their work, ask questions, and learn what it’s like to work at the space agency.”

Flanagan said NASA selected videos produced by Atherton Junior High and Washtenaw International Middle Academy among entries from eight Michigan schools and 50 entries overall to participate in the project’s Virtual Student Showcase. The two other selected schools are in Colorado and Virginia.

Students were asked to create a 3-5 minute video documenting their response to NASA’s challenge.

“Imagine your middle school students designing a game for astronauts to play onboard the International Space Station, or a parachute to slow a spacecraft as it descends to Mars, or designing a radiation shielding system to protect astronauts from the extreme environment of space,” Flanagan said. “Schools had to produce a video based on one of these three real-life challenges.”

With a video called “Working Today, Parachuting Tomorrow,” Atherton Junior High tackled the parachute challenge while Washtenaw students designed a video game for astronauts. The video is called: “Good Banana, Bad Banana.”

In announcing Michigan’s selection, NASA and the U.S. Department of Education said, “While many States expressed interest in this pilot project, we believe Michigan is among the best suited to lead the way in exemplifying how, with proper support, 21st CCLC projects can successfully incorporate STEM learning into program activities. We hope to learn from your participation ways the Department can better support STEM learning based in part on high quality partnerships between 21st CCLC programs and groups such as the Department’s Math and Science Partnerships program and NASA.”