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Over 3000 K-12 Students Connected with NASA Airborne Science Program Missions During the 2012-2013 School Year

One hundred and sixty-four K-12 classrooms from across the United States and Chile with 3030 total students participated in online chats with Airborne Science Program mission personnel in the field during the 2012/2013 school year.

Mission Tools Suite for Education is a unique website that allows students and teachers to connect directly with ongoing Airborne Science research campaigns.  The Mission Tools Suite (MTS) is web-based software used by mission personnel to monitor and assist with real-time decision making during the course of an Airborne Science mission.  The Airborne Science Program has created a scaled down version of the tool called MTS for Education (MTSE), which is aimed at supporting core K-12 classroom science curriculum.

The NASA Airborne Science Program’s Mission Tools Suite for Education website allows K-12 classrooms from around the world to track the locations of NASA aircraft in real-time and participate in live text-chats with mission scientists, pilots, and others flying inside the airplanes and with mission personnel on the ground.  Website features include:

  • •       Live flight following 

–      Students and teachers can track the position of ASP aircraft on a map in real-time

  • •       Live camera feeds from the aircraft (on select missions)
  • •       Real-time satellite data products

–      Overlay current weather, hurricane tracks, etc

  • •       Environmental data from the aircraft

–      Ability to plot aircraft altitude, speed, temperature, wind speed, etc. in real-time

  • •       Live text chats between classrooms and mission scientists, pilots, and others onboard the aircraft or on the ground

The website has so far been used during five NASA Airborne Science Program missions in 2012-2013

  • •       Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel (Sept 2012)
  • •       IceBridge Antarctic (Oct-Nov 2012)
  • •       DISCOVER-AQ (Jan-Feb 2013)
  • •       ATTREX (Feb-Mar 2013)
  • •       IceBridge Arctic (Mar-May 2013)

From Kindergarteners asking if IceBridge personnel saw Santa when they flew over the North Pole (they did not), to middle school students asking what it feels like to fly a Global Hawk over a hurricane without actually being inside it during HS3, to high school students asking specific questions about atmospheric chemistry during DISCOVER-AQ and ATTREX, classroom chats are effective at all grade levels.

“Our 3rd graders were enthralled with following Operation IceBridge. They loved learning about the science of the mission from those on the airplane, and were fascinated with Antarctica, and learned a lot about ice shelves, glaciers, and much more. Over the course of the year, they study all the continents, so the area covered by the flights gave them an opportunity to be introduced to Google Earth and use it to explore South America and Antarctica.  Kudos to Operation Icebridge for including students in their mission. Thanks to all involved.”

–Cameron Cross, 3rd Grade Teacher, New Hampshire


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