This spring in Youth EXPO, we have driven an underwater remotely operated vehicle (ROV) and walked inside a Space Shuttle replica at Kennedy Space Center. So it only makes sense that we go canoeing today in Biscayne National Park! Ranger Chris talked with us about the environment of the National Park, including the mangroves and the coral reefs (the 3rd largest reef system in the world), and how important it is to keep it clean and healthy for its inhabitants (and us). He even told us about this species of fish in the Bay which can actually switch genders! (Can you find out which species it is?) After we had a canoeing safety lesson, we we able to go out on the Bay. Canoeing is certainly harder than it looks. It was very windy, and on the way back in to shore, 3 boats had to come back as a team, each one holding on to the next. But we all made it back!
Like most kids, I dreamt of one day blasting into space in a rocket ship and looking down on our big blue planet as stars shone from distant galaxies in the background. Most of us don’t get to experience the thrill of being an astronaut but thanks to the Youth Expo Island in a virtual 3D world, we may not need to forgo your childhood dreams.
This spring students are using avatars to learn about climate change through immersive 3D experiences. High above the Youth Expo island directly above an erupting volcano, there are detailed replicas of satellites that NASA uses to help scientists collect very precise real-time data about just about any conceivable aspect of our planet’s climate.
A spacesuit-clad astronaut floats above a digital Earth amid climate satellites.
Students use this interactive simulation to learn about the instruments and data that drives our understanding of how the Earth’s ocean currents, clouds, ground cover, and human activity affect global climate. They design an avatar, pick up a complementary spacesuit by the welcome area, and blast off in the space capsule for the ride of their lives!
We just had an amazing, inspiring talk with Astronaut Leland Melvin in Second Life. Almost 100 students from the Museum’s youth development programs participated. Here are a few shots from in-world… Video clips are coming soon.
Teen avatars float above virtual Earth with Astronaut Melvin.
We truly appreciate the time and dedication that Astronaut Melvin put into this event and look forward to hearing from him again in the future.
Take-away message: “You CAN do it!”
Astronaut Leland Melvin's avatar prepares to meet with students in Second Life.
Leland D. Melvin, NASA Associate Administrator for Education, will meet and talk with museum-mentored high school students in a computer-generated, 3-D environment created by students on the Miami Science Museum’s virtual world island in Second Life. Using avatars that they have created, youth will interact with Mr. Melvin’s avatar, who will talk about his passion for science, lend insight into his career path, and answer students’ questions.
Young people interacting with such a powerful role model through this computer- simulated world is a revolutionary new way of making the presentation more engaging, deepening their science knowledge and making the students more comfortable asking questions of the speaker. The presentation will be broadcast to students in the virtual world and projected in the Science Museum’s Theater so that the public can observe the virtual event and also participate through an avatar.
Leland D. Melvin joined NASA in 1989 as an aerospace engineer at the agency’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA. He joined the astronaut corps in 1998 and has served as a mission specialist on two space shuttle missions. In 2003, Melvin co-managed the former Educator Astronaut Program, which recruited teachers to become fully trained astronauts in an effort to connect space exploration with students across the country.
Mr. Melvin was named the associate administrator for education at NASA Headquarters in October 2010. He is responsible for the development and implementation of NASA’s education programs. As a passionate advocate of science education, he has been developing strategies to improve NASA’s education offerings and to assist in establishing goals, processes and evaluation techniques to implement a sustainable and innovative Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) program. He is a two-time space shuttle astronaut and flew on missions STS-122 and STS-129 in 2008 and 2009, respectively. Prior to joining NASA, Mr. Melvin played in the National Football League for the Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys.
Date: May 21, 2011
Time: 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM EDT
Location: Miami Science Museum and SL: NASA Region
Many of us dream of becoming explorers. Sometimes we may mistakenly think that there is nothing left to explore on Earth. Nothing could be further from the truth, as we learned today from Dr. Lonnie Thompson and Dr. Ellen Thompson, of the Byrd Polar Research Center at The Ohio State University. They continue to explore the world, including Antarctica and Greenland, in order to study the Earth’s climate. They both spoke to us in Second Life, and talked about where they’d been, and what they study. Lonnie Thompson even has the nickname “The Ice Man” because he is responsible for groundbreaking research in the area of climate change. He and Ellen have both observed, monitored, and studied ice cores and glaciers for evidence of how Earth’s climate has changed, and is changing. And not only are they a research team, they are a husband and wife team too! So we were lucky to talk to both of them in our Second Life NASA island – outside sitting on the snow next to an ice core drill!
After we sat in the snow with both Drs. Thompson, we each got to work on making a short movie of our time in Youth EXPO. We only have one more class to go, and looking back at all our photos, we learned so much about climate, met the most amazing scientists whose research is changing the way we think about the Earth, got to build model sediment cores, saw the Space Shuttle on the launch pad on a visit to Kennedy Space Center, and millions of other things. It’s a big challenge creating a short movie of so much!