A representative from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center paid a visit to kids at Gallaher Elementary School in Newark last week. With a little help from the hit movie franchise Transformers, he introduced the students so a special NASA OPTIMUS PRIME contest, which is designed to encourage the students to contemplate careers in aerospace. With the popular Optimus Prime Transformer character as his hook, the credentialed NASA manager didn’t have to do much else to get kids to pay attention!
NASA’s Darryl Mitchell, who works in the innovative technology partnerships office, told kids that lots of technology that was developed for the space program — like cameras in our iPhones, additives in baby formula, and some Light-Emitting Diodes (LEDs) technologies — were commercial spinoffs of technologies first developed for astronauts. Essentially, several technologies developed for the US space program have been “transformed” into new technologies for every day use here on Earth. So Mitchell invited the kids at Gallaher to participate in a nation-wide ‘Trasnformers’ contest — the NASA OPTIMUS PRIME Spinoff Promotion and Research Challenge. Students are asked to make videos about regular items in their home that borrow from NASA inventions, and show how space-age technology has impacted their lives.
“We want to get kids excited about careers in aerospace by making them aware of the thousands of spinoff technologies that surround them every day,” said Mitchell. While Mitchell does take the contest on a national road show each year, Gallaher Elementary is the first and only school in Delaware to be introduced to the contest.
Students in grades 3-5 will use a cloud-based platform called Glogster to create and submit their entries, and the final winner will be selected by a team of NASA judges. Glogster will allow participating students to combine different kinds of media on a virtual canvas to create multimedia posters and to access an existing library of educational content created by students and educators worldwide. Students will create a Glog of their own as part of the contest that will include information on spinoffs and NASA missions as well as video describing their own ideas for a new NASA spinoff technology.
Students who win will have the opportunity to visit NASA Goddard for an awards ceremony, workshop and a behind-the-scenes look at Goddard Space Center in Maryland. They will also have the opportunity to design and create their own public service announcement video with guidance from NASA video producers and actor Peter Cullen, Optimus Prime.
Mitchell told students that NASA isn’t just about astronauts, scientists and engineers. He said NASA needs people of many different professions – accountants, electricians, business people, even artists. “All of these people are important to achieve NASA’s missions. So, if you like the space program, but you aren’t into science or engineering, there are still opportunities for you to play an important part!”