It’s a great thing to be able to do real science on your own, and this is exactly what we encourage here at Dynamic Patterns Research. But, it’s even another great thing to be able to help inspire the desire to do real science in someone else. This is where a great new partnership between NASA, Teachers in Space, and MAKE Magazine is focused to bring exciting scientific experience to young minds.
The goal of the new “NASA Make: Challenge” is to solicit the ingenuity of makers and amateurs to develop inexpensive kits that can be built by students and then sent off into suborbital flights to perform some scientific experiment.
The deadline for submission of ideas is fast approaching on April 30, 2011 and the rules and guidelines are posted online.
This program is planned to be a multi-year event, but the first winning kit designs will be initially assembled by teachers at a workshop at the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center’s AERO Institute in Palmdale, CA in early August 2011. These kits will then fly aboard the Excelsior STEM mission, which is an unmanned suborbital flight scheduled to fly aboard a Masten Space Systems reusable launch vehicle later in 2011.
This wonderful partnership is a great example of NASA’s new approach to finding success in the socially-connected and cash-strapped early 21st Century. As it becomes clear and ever more important that NASA must continue to evolve as a collaborative partner in space exploration and cutting-edge research (read the 2011 NASA 2011 Strategic Plan), they are also increasing their emphasis on partnerships with a broader base of academic institutions as well as directly approaching the exploding citizen science community. In particular, NASA’s new Open Government Initiative, just released last year and is now under development even though “openness” was part of their original 1958 founding legislation, is creating an updated culture of connection between their scientists and engineers and the rest of the country’s citizenry.
This renewed energy from NASA should be a boon to those citizen scientists interested in finding more direct ways to collaborate with the exciting scientific resources and research fields that NASA is mandated to tackle. Although created by an academic middle-man from the UK, Chris Lintott, the exploding Zooniverse of citizen science projects is the greatest example right now of the successful connection between NASA-generated data (through the Hubble Space Telescope, the Kepler Mission, the Spitzer Space Telescope, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, and the STEREO Space Observatories) and the important scientific analysis performed by volunteers from around the world. NASA is proud of these endeavorers, and readily brags about the progress (“Citizen Scientists Making Incredible Discoveries“, NASA Science News, April 22, 2011).
NASA wants to provide critical tools for citizen scientists. It is not only an aspect of their mandate to be an open source scientific resource, but the valuable role that citizen scientists now play in the advancement of science is becoming more clear each and every day. NASA wants to be successful, and they know that they must collaborate with the private sector and the private citizenry to help become what they want to be, especially since the US Congress struggles every year to fund this much needed success.
As a seasoned citizen scientist, or if you are wanting to simply whet your appetite for scientific adventures and informal self-learning, the time is ripe now to connect with NASA and take a direct part in the rapid development of new technologies and exciting scientific discoveries that are happening right now and will happen in the near future.
Please let us know at Dynamic Patterns Research what sort of connections you have made or are in the process of developing so that we might learn more about the great new opportunities that could be out there for other citizen scientists.