During this weekend's NASCAR race in Richmond, Va., a NASA Learning Environments & Research Networks (LE&RN) education program, Rockets to Racecars (R2R), will be open to the public to help educate them about last month's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission that successfully landed the Curiosity rover on Mars.
The event will be held Sept. 7 - 9 at Richmond International Raceway in Richmond, Va.
"This event represents a significant collaboration between VA529, the Nationwide race sponsor, the Science Museum of Virginia and Richmond International Raceway. The focus these groups have on educational offerings for children, families and STEM (science, technology, education and mathematics) education training for teachers is impressive," said education specialist Bonnie Murray.
NASA R2R will have exhibits at the event where families can touch a tire from the Curiosity rover, test their skills at landing on Mars with an Xbox Kinect video game called "Mars Rover Landing," and see a model of MSL.
Additionally, visitors will be able to build a lander similar to the rover and initiate a drop test. They will learn about the science of flight and racing at NASA's R2R exhibit and meet Robonaut, the first robotic astronaut assistant.
Families also will learn about technology benefits space exploration has made possible for automobile and racing industries and how NASA plays a key role in improving automobile brakes, engine cooling systems and more. These attractions, from the Science Museum of Virginia, will be available at the Virginia 529 Kids Zone Friday from 12 to 7 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. EDT.
Prior to the event, there will be a teacher professional development workshop at the Science Museum of Virginia where participants will hear from Murray and Digital Learning Coordinators Lyle Tavernier and Karen Ricks as they talk about how NASA programs help inspire students to study STEM. Virginia teachers will see demonstrations on how the forces that lift planes and rockets also hold racecars tight to the track at high speeds. Teachers will learn about the various attractions held at the event, and all of their training will lead to their ability to share their knowledge of NASA at the Kids Zone area during the NASCAR event.
Also featured during this event is the launch of newly updated Next Step Mars Module. The new module gives students and teachers information about the most advanced suite of instruments ever sent to the Martian surface. Seventy-five fourth grade students from Carver Magnet School in Little Rock, Ark., will interact with NASA education specialists from Goddard Space Flight Center, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Langley Research Center to learn about the MSL mission and its correlations to the science of racing.
NASA LE&RN is a project within the Elementary-Secondary Education Program of NASA's Office of Education. Its primary focus is on the use of educational technologies for STEM content delivery to students of all ages, online professional development courses, experiences and events, and the research and development of learning tools and methods within tomorrow's learning environments. The project serves both teachers and students through interactive virtual connections.