Thursday, August 22, 2013

8th Grade to Control Mars Satellite

In just a few months from now, our 8th graders will be controlling the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) aboard NASA's Mars Odyssey Orbiter.

Thanks to the efforts of Ms. Nicole Kolenic, our 8th grade science teacher, our students will be participating in the Mars Student Imaging Project run by Arizona State University.  Students will first learn about the physics and chemistry involved in studying planetary surfaces and then will work with Ms. Kolenic to construct a research project that will utilize the THEMIS instrument aboard the Odyssey to collect the relevant data. Their projects then will be vetted by a team of Arizona State scientists and, when given the green light, they will be given the opportunity, through NASA, to operate the Thermal Emission Imaging System and gather the information they are seeking.  When their projects are complete, students will then have to present their conclusions to the ASU team for feedback.

In February, the journal Science awarded the Mars Student Imaging Project its prize for Inquiry-Based Instruction.  As Inquiry-Based Instruction (or its close cousin, Project Based Learning) has been a focus of our professional development initiatives over the past year, Ms. Kolenic decided it would be a great fit for this year's 8th grade.  Through the project, students will not only learn about science, but they'll get to do science in the most dramatic and exciting of ways.  We can't wait to see the results!

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