Clemson, NASA contest for middle-schoolers aims for asteroids

Your task, should you choose to accept it, is to design a mission to an asteroid.

Sound like an old episode of Mission Impossible? Not quite. This time, it’s NASA, Clemson University and other members of the NASA Human Health and Performance Center that are challenging students in the sixth through eighth grades to dream of going where no one has gone before.

The contest is open to teams of one to four students who will submit a slide show presentation to NASA that outlines their plans for sending a human crew on a trip to an asteroid.

The goal of the contest, according to Clemson psychology professor Benjamin R. Stephens, is to engage more students in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and to stimulate students by providing an opportunity for them to explore and discover.

“Asking kids to create a presentation for NASA is a very cool challenge,” Stephens said. “That creative process can enhance their interest in science and technology, setting the stage for their next steps toward STEM topics in higher education.”

Although winners of this Asteroid Contest will not receive prizes or monetary awards, select winners of the challenge who have displayed exemplary workmanship and creativity, will have the opportunity to have their presentations highlighted on the NASA website.

Creative Inquiry students at Clemson working with Stephens have been involved in designing the challenge and creating the website. They will promote the competition regionally, judge the submissions and evaluate the impact/effectiveness of the challenge. Creative Inquiry is a program in which small groups of undergraduates work alongside faculty on research projects.

Complete guidelines and instructions for submitting an entry can be found on the website. The competition officially opens Feb. 20 and closes March 30, 2012.

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