Every week I recap headlines from the world of amateur space exploration. From students sending research to the International Space Station to retirees searching for planets orbiting other stars, space exploration belongs to more than just the astronauts.
This past week’s news included several examples of model rocketry enhancing education. Students get to see physics in action, gain hands-on experience with an engineering project, and get to see how classroom theory works in the real world.
But rockets don't miraculously appear in classrooms. Teachers first need to know how the hands-on techniques work best for their particular classrooms. The US Air Force Test Pilot School taught California educators how to enhance their science and math curriculum with model rockets. The teachers received 50 curriculum guides, each with dozens of lessons - and flew a flight simulator at Edwards Air Force Base.
Hawaii’s Waimea High School class in video rocketry aims for a December launch, The Garden Island reports. Students spent the summer designing and testing a model rocket. In the process they learned how to machine and 3D print the parts as well as solder their custom circuits. The on-board camera will capture a rocket’s-eye video of the launch. At the other end of the country a New York middle school integrates rocketry into 6th grade science, reports Oswego County Today. Lessons on Newton’s Laws, aerodynamics, and Nasa history culminate in a class rocket launch.
America’s rocketry champions, teenagers from Russelville, Alabama, have set their sights on Nasa’s Student Launch Initiative, the Franklin County Times reports. Area schools, inspired by their achievement, have started their own rocket clubs to compete in the 2016 Team America Rocketry Challenge.
Montana’s Laurel High School began its eleventh year in Nasa’s Hunch program, the Laurel Outlook reports. An acronym for High schools United with Nasa to Create Hardware, the program gives students hands-on experience with modern machine tools and 3D printing techniques with a special twist: they make parts for the International Space Station. This year the students will create a way to improve astronauts’ lives in orbit.
The Google Lunar X-Prize is a contest to send privately-financed robots to the Moon. It created the annual Moonbots Challenge to engage teens and pre-teens in science and robotics. Four girls in Mexico became grand finalists, Mexico News Daily reports. India West highlighted a team of Indian Americans. They will join the other winners in Japan to meet the Google Lunar X-Prize contestants.
The House of Lords honored British teens for their record-setting rocket car, the Nottingham Post reports. A model rocket motor accelerated the teens’ car to 533 miles-per-hour, setting a new Guinness world record along the way. Their effort was part of Bloodhound SSC’s UK-wide education outreach program. The British attempt to set a 1,000 miles-per-hour land speed record has inspired kids across Great Britain to study science and mathematics. The kids in the Young Engineers’ Club conduct their own outreach program to inspire primary school students.
Amateurs in Zero-G
Students at a Massachusetts middle school will send tadpoles into space… for science. The Herald News spoke with teachers and students at Talbot Innovation Middle School about their experiment to study the effect of microgravity on tadpole development.
Engaging the Public
The US Army and amateur radio operators will test emergency readiness by simulating a Coronal Mass Ejection-caused blackout, ARRL reports. In the event of a military attack or a natural disaster American ham radio enthusiasts form a backup communications network, the Military Auxiliary Radio System. On November 8, members of Mars and the US Army will simulate the nationwide blackout that a severe solar storm might trigger.
A museum outreach specialist's enthusiasm for Martian exploration got a boost when he attended a Nasa workshop, M-Live reports. The weeklong program included a simulated Martian field expedition in the Arizona desert.
Dark skies around the world attract astronomy tourists to spectacular views of the heavens. Danielo Vidal conducts astronomy tours in Chile’s Atacama Plateau, and talked about stargazing in the desert with Yahoo News. Visitors to Australia's Trelawny Farm can spend the night observing the southern sky with the inn’s telescopes, The Australian reports.
Other news in the world of amateur space exploration:
- Remote sensing company PlanetLabs will publicly release $60 million of satellite imagery in support of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
- The citizens of Eugene, Oregon, should fight light pollution and restore the region’s dark skies, according to an op-ed in the Register Guard.
- Arizona State released public feedback on Nasa’s plans to explore an asteroid and Mars.
- Caltech astronomer Robert Hurt told The Verge how he creates public images from space telescope data.
- Columbia University’s astronomy graduate students created a mentorship program that fosters undergraduate research.
- University of the Virgin Islands will start an undergrad astronomy degree thanks to a $2.7MM grant from Nasa.
- A Hawaii science center won an award for community education.