Category: Events

A Virtual Visit with Leland D. Melvin

On May 21, 2011, almost 100 people participated in a mixed-reality, virtual visit with Astronaut Leland Melvin: about half in the Space Gallery at the Miami Science Museum and half via Second Life. We captured over an hour of Mr. Melvin’s fascinating and inspiring talk, but you can view highlights here:

Avatar Meets Superman

Astronaut Leland Melvin's avatar prepares to meet with students in Second Life.

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

Climatology Career Day

April 30, 2011

You always hear people say that we need to have our next generation be strong in science, technology, engineering, and math. We are the next generation, but it’s hard to know sometimes how we get there. What do you really do as a climatologist, an atmospheric scientist, or a meteorologist? And what should you study in school to get there? Today the Museum held a Climatology Career Day for students in the Museum’s Youth EXPO, Digital WAVE, and Upward Bound programs to answer these questions.

Dr. Clement makes a cloud in a jar

Dr. Clement makes a cloud in a jar

We’ve all learned about climate change, but now we get to hear more about how we can really be a part of it. We talked with a Robert Molleda, Warning Coordination Meteorologist from the National Weather Service; Maria Beotegui, Education Coordinator from Biscayne National Park; David Bernard, CBS4 Chief Meteorologist; Dr. Arturo Rodriguez, Professor of Chemistry and Meteorology from Miami Dade College; Erik Salna, Associate Director of the International Hurricane Research Center at Florida International University; Dr. Amy Clement, Professor of Meteorology and Oceanography from the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science; and Dr. Kevin Helmle, Research Scientist from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Not to mention Michael Garay, Senior Physics Engineer from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who was the keynote speaker for the event and spoke with us through Second Life.

Speakers L to R: David Bernard, Robert Molleda, Erik Salna, Dr. Arturo Rodriguez, Dr. Kevin Helmle, Maria Beotegui, Dr. Amy Clement

These people were all so different, but they all seemed to have something in common – when they were younger, some kind of spark inspired them to get into science, and they worked really hard to get where they wanted to go. All we need to do now is follow our own inspiration.

 

The Great Energy Challenge

April 23, 2011

Who knew there was a missing link between soft drinks, forests, ocean acidity, wild fires, cement production, and volcanoes? Today Mike Gunson of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory talked to us via Second Life about this “carbon dioxide puzzle” and about how we know from data that humans are a piece of that puzzle.

So when we say that burning fossil fuels releases about 8.5 gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere per year, what does that mean? It’s hard to really understand a word like “gigaton” because it means 1 BILLION tons. To give you a comparison, if 1 Mazda Miata weighs about 1 ton, then you’d need 8.5 billion Miatas to make 8.5 billion tons. That’s enough Miatas to circle the Earth 850 times!
 

It just so happened that the Museum had a Great Energy Challenge event this day. So after we learned about how important it was to have cleaner and more efficient energy, we went through the Museum and made some clean energy ourselves!

Generating human-powered energy

Generating human-powered energy

Becoming a human yo-yo

Becoming a human yo-yo

Blast Off!

April 9, 2011

Kennedy Space Center. This is the place where Space Shuttles and rockets are launched. The place where you can re-live the history of the US Space Program, walk under rockets that took men to the Moon, and even meet astronauts. We went for a day to Kennedy Space Center, and got to do all these things. Listening to Astronaut Tom Jones talk about the day he saw 16 sunsets and 16 sunrises from the International Space Station makes you realize how lucky astronauts are.

Outside in the Rocket Garden, we walked across a walkway, just like the one that astronauts walk across to enter the Space Shuttle. But we did it in slow motion, just like in the “hero shot” in movies when the astronauts are on their way to accomplish a dangerous, but vital, mission. Everyone has a little bit of astronaut explorer blood in them!

Visiting Space Shuttle replica at Kennedy Space Center