A national competition sponsored by NASA and organized by an educational consortium of the University of Washington aims to entice students to think about science, space travel and the world of science. history of America's travels on the moon.

He was only in elementary school at the time, but Robert Winglee remembers very well watching, on a black-and-white television, the moment when the American astronaut Neil Armstrong had put his shoes on the surface of the moon almost 50 years ago.

The landing on the moon was one of many events that allowed him to take an interest in space and a career as a professor in the Department of Earth Sciences and Space at the University of Washington. He is an expert in space technologies, including space plasmas, plasma thrusters and rocket systems.

No astronaut has walked on the surface of the moon since 1972. As the head of an NASA education consortium, Winglee wants more students to be excited about the upcoming one. anniversary. That's how his colleagues and he imagined the Apollo Next Giant Leap Student Challenge, a competition for students in Grades 5-12 that asks them to use a Lego Mindstorms drone and robots to combat the problems of science, engineering, and computer programming.

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The national challenge is managed by the UW database Pipeline of Earth Sciences and North-West Space (NESSP), headed by Winglee. There is no registration fee and some eligible schools will be eligible for a free kit including a drone and a programmable robot. The organizers will also contribute to the fundraising and will also be able to provide training in drone and robotics.

Here's the challenge: Each team will build a replica of the lunar module, then use a remotely controlled drone to land on a map of the moon's surface, measuring 8 feet by 10 feet. They will also modify and program a Lego Mindstorms EV3 robot to explore the lunar surface and bring back a sample of rock. High school students will have an additional challenge: retrieve the lunar module from the team using the drone and bring it back to the starting line. And students at all levels will also have to choose something to leave on the surface of their virtual moon – something interesting for their community or school.

The work could be done in class, after school or as part of a summer camp – "we'll support all three options," said Winglee.

Winglee predicts that there will be more demand than the offer for free kits, but he hopes to do crowdfunding to bring as many kits to schools as possible. He also hopes the competition will create a sense of "daring and innovation that was part of the Apollo era".

The Winglee group has been working for the past three years in the northwestern states – particularly in low-income, underserved and rural schools – to spark interest in science, technology, engineering and technology. mathematics (STEM) by offering free scientific activities. camps. Winglee says the results are promising – and he hopes the challenge will be another way to inspire kids in schools with limited funds for science projects.

Students tested after the camps show increased interest and expertise in the field of STEM. And tests show that it is students from underserved communities who benefit the most, catching up with their peers in better funded schools.

When consortium scientists began working with low-income schools, they found that many students were certain they could not program or build a rocket from a kit – one of the camp's popular activities. After the camps, this attitude has changed. "They would leave with such confidence" when they would build and launch a rocket model, Winglee said.

When Winglee's group proved the success of the camps, NASA gave it the green light to create the national competition.

The Apollo Challenge period began this month and teams can register until March 31st. the teams will meet in July to show their work in Seattle. The winning team from here and 12 other regional venues will visit Johnson Space Center in Houston this summer to be part of the 50th anniversary celebrations. All teams will receive NASA cash to fund their trip, and local partners, Museum of Flight, Pacific Science Center, Microsoft and Boeing, will attend the winners of the North West.

The Pipeline Earth Sciences and Space Sciences Northwest consortium was created in 2016 through a $ 10 million cooperation agreement that created a NASA hub in the northwestern Pacific.

For more information on the contest or to participate, go to https://nwessp.org/apollo50/