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NASA Outreach

You may have heard about NASA’s budget woes and how that impacts most of their outreach programs. It means we not only lose programs such as the annual NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory open house and Pamela Gay’s CosmoQuest, but also programs such as the one I worked with this past weekend. It is a project called NASA Science and Technology on the Family Calendar.

It is a collaboration between NASA, Rochester Institute of Technology, and the Rochester Museum and Science Center where kids get to develop demonstrations and displays for their science center. It’s a great example of bottom up (rather than top down) science outreach. Science driven by the questions and interests of kids themselves, rather than being dictated by teachers and scientists.

The overall topic for this weekend’s project was “Earth From Space.” So teams looked at environmental changes, natural disasters, remote imaging and other topics related to space-based observations of Earth. One team wanted to release a weather balloon to take pictures from space. We didn’t have the budget for a released balloon, but we could do a tethered one. As you can see, they got some pretty cool pictures of downtown Rochester.

Launching the balloon.Brian Koberlein
Launching the balloon.
Going higher.Brian Koberlein
Going higher.
A view of Rochester.Brian Koberlein
A view of Rochester.
The Rochester Planetarium.Brian Koberlein
The Rochester Planetarium.

This particular project wasn’t a huge grant, but there are hundreds like it across the country, and they are all at risk with the budget cuts. Most kids don’t live near JPL, and losing the annual open house won’t mean much to them. But children all over the country will lose opportunities such as this one due to current cut backs.

Hopefully we can change that trend.