Want more kids to take calculus? Convince mom first
July 13th, 2012
03:51 PM ET

Want more kids to take calculus? Convince mom first

Math and science educators across the country spend their summers learning how to make calculus more engaging and biology more relevant, but there's a problem: What if high schoolers never even signed up for those classes?

What if a tough ninth grade algebra class meant they hopped off the high-tech train, and couldn't find a way back on later? What if nobody answered when kids asked, "But if I'm not going to be a chemist, why do I need this?"

For all the reasons teens find to stop taking math, science and technology classes, a study published online in the journal "Psychological Science" found a relatively simple way to make them continue: Convince their parents first.

FULL STORY from Schools of Thought

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Filed under: Math • On Earth • Science Education
June 26th, 2012
09:24 AM ET

Weather balloon mystery: What went wrong?

Editor's note: Today's Light Years guest blogger, Mark Sudduth of hurricanetrack.com, joined a CNN project to launch a video-equipped weather balloon aimed at reaching the upper atmosphere and the edge of space. As it turned out, the mission posed many challenges. Here's Sudduth's account of what went right - and what went wrong.

The idea is simple: Put a payload in to the very edge of space via helium balloon, track it with advanced GPS technology and recover the payload after the balloon bursts at its prescribed altitude. Sounds like an exciting idea, right? Trust me, it is.

I should know because my team at HurricaneTrack.com has been working on developing just such a payload to deploy via weather balloon in to the eye of a hurricane.

How would we even get to the eye of a hurricane, you ask? That's our job.

I lead a small group of people who work hard to study the effects of hurricanes at landfall. We send back live video, pictures, data and tweets during the worst hurricanes that nature can dish out. We've been in more than 20 of them since 1995. We know hurricanes at landfall and thought it would be really cool to see the inside of one via weather balloon. All we needed to do was add a few GoPro HD cameras, the right GPS tracking equipment and then wait patiently for the right hurricane to come along.

We tested our payload with a 1,200-gram weather balloon May 24 from a private landing strip near Buffalo, Texas.

The payload was made out of a $2.28 Styrofoam cooler. It provided the safety for the GPS tracking equipment, which included a G1 Android phone and a SPOT locator, which is used by mountain climbers to help rescuers find them during emergencies.

We utilized lightweight aluminum cross beams that pierced the cooler to mount the four GoPro cams to, each facing a different direction. The finished product looked pretty cool.

It would be hoisted to the high atmosphere by the giant weather balloon filled with more than 200 cubic feet of helium.

Everything went about as well as could be expected. Despite high winds and a failed initial launch because of an insufficient amount of helium, we pulled it off.

The payload, named HURR-B, went up at an average of 1,100 feet per minute. It reached an estimated 94,000 feet before bursting because of the extreme low pressure of the upper atmosphere. It then fell back to earth with its parachute slowing the descent to around 15 to 20 mph. We located it using the G1 phone and the SPOT locator and retrieved everything within two hours after touchdown. Success was the word of the day. The footage was great, the GPS loggers were perfect, and we were just about ready to launch it for real inside the eye of America's next land falling hurricane.

The prep

About two weeks ago I got a call from a CNN producer Chris Erickson asking me to advise his team on how to do something similar for a project he had with CNN International Newsource. Little did I know, this project would not go as smoothly as the previous one.


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Filed under: News • Science Education
Our big blue marble not very blue
May 8th, 2012
12:03 PM ET

Our big blue marble not very blue

Water covers more than two-thirds of the Earth’s surface, but what would happen if you collected all of it one place?

The illustration above, from the United States Geological Survey, shows the size of a sphere needed to hold all of our planet’s water compared to the size of Earth itself.

The sphere, which is about 860 miles in diameter and 1.39 million cubic kilometers, is about 1/1000 the size of Earth (or 1/20 the size of the moon).

More than 95% of the water sphere comes from world’s oceans, with the remainder made up of water from all other sources including lakes, rivers, and ice caps –- even the water found in plants and animals, according to the USGS.

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Filed under: On Earth • Science Education
A rubber chicken: NASA's favorite mascot
Camilla sits inside a mockup Soyuz capsule at Johnson Space Center in Houston.
May 4th, 2012
02:02 PM ET

A rubber chicken: NASA's favorite mascot

Let me tell you about an ambitious rubber chicken. Her name is Camilla Corona SDO, and she's the official mascot for NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. You may be most familiar with her as the bird that a group of high school students sent to the edge of space in March.

For Camilla, that flight (intended to study a solar radiation storm) was just part of her job promoting science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education among students, especially girls. Oh, and let's not forget that her trip could be considered part of her astronaut training.

Yes, you read that right. Camilla Corona, along with her mascot duties, is training to fly in space. She wants to visit Little SDO, her best friend, who is currently on a mission to observe our sun. A flight to the International Space Station is on her wish list, too.

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Filed under: In Space • Science Education • Voices
The Innovation Generation
March 30th, 2012
11:42 AM ET

The Innovation Generation

By Pamela Greyer, Special to CNN

Editor’s Note: Pamela Greyer is a K-12 science educator, STEM education consultant and NASA solar system ambassador. She is the former site director of NASA’s Science, Engineering, Mathematics and Aerospace Academy Chicago Program and continues to mentor and engage youths in NASA engineering competitions and contests.

This is her second post about leading a team through the process of competing in NASA's Great Moonbuggy Race. Catch up on her story here.

"Ms. G, How are we supposed to build this?"

If anybody ever said building a moonbuggy for NASA's Great Moonbuggy Race was an easy task, they were definitely not telling the whole story.

The team is excited by the idea of going to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, to race their moonbuggy. But before that can happen, they have to design and build the buggy.

This project presents as many challenges to the students today as it did for the NASA engineers who designed the first lunar vehicle. My students have discovered the art of innovation while designing their moonbuggy.

"This is more than a challenge in engineering design," said one of my students. "Where are the directions?"

New York city schools want to ban 'loaded words' from tests
"Dinosaur" is among the words New York CIty is looking to ban from tests, apparently over concerns it could bother creationists.
March 29th, 2012
09:44 AM ET

New York city schools want to ban 'loaded words' from tests

Divorce. Dinosaurs, Birthdays. Religion. Halloween. Christmas. Television. These are a few of the 50-plus words and references the New York City Department of Education is hoping to ban from the city’s standardized tests.

The banned word list was made public – and attracted considerable criticism – when the city’s education department recently released this year’s "request for proposal" The request for proposal is sent to test publishers around the country trying to get the job of revamping math and English tests for the City of New York.

The Department of Education's says that avoiding sensitive words on tests is nothing new, and that New York City is not the only locale to do so. California avoids the use of the word "weed" on tests and Florida avoids the phrases that use "Hurricane" or "Wildfires," according to a statement by the New York City Department of Education.

FULL STORY from CNN's Belief Blog

Citizen scientists shape 'destiny of humanity'
With the help of citizen scientists, SETI hopes to make the most of the Allen Telescope Array.
March 28th, 2012
10:03 AM ET

Citizen scientists shape 'destiny of humanity'

In 2009, Jill Tarter wanted to trigger the most meaningful search for extraterrestrial intelligence to date by pulling everyone together to look at the sky. The SETI Institute scientist brought her wish to the 2009 TED Conference. The idea of citizen science gave her hope.

The more eyes and ears she could put on the sky and the signals being received by the Allen Telescope Array – a collection of small satellite dishes together that can simultaneously pick up signals for radio astronomy research – the better chance we have at making new discoveries. Tarter wanted people to analyze the signals the array sends back in real time – something machines can’t do.

“We think humans are able to do something that our machines can’t” Tarter said. “We’re hoping that in these regions of the spectrum, where there are so many signals that we use for our own communication purposes, that humans can perhaps be sensitive to signals buried underneath all of this chatter of our own that might be coming from a distant technology.”

FULL STORY from Geek Out!

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Filed under: On Earth • Science Education
Love of numbers: How equations changed the world
February 14th, 2012
08:00 AM ET

Love of numbers: How equations changed the world

Ian Stewart is a mathematician at the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom. His new book "In Pursuit of the Unknown" is published by Basic Books in the United States in March. In the United Kingdom it is available from Profile Books with the title "Seventeen Equations That Changed the World."

I was one of those annoying kids who actually liked equations. I collected them in a notebook. I loved the way you could plug a few numbers into an equation and find out how bright the Sun would be if you were standing on Pluto. Or work out how big a rainbow looks from the refractive index of water and the time of day.

I realize I am a rarity in that respect. Stephen Hawking’s publishers allegedly told him that every equation he put into his runaway bestseller "A Brief History of Time" would halve its sales. So, if he’d left out Einstein’s E=mc2, he would have sold another 10 million copies. But his publishers had a point. Although the great equations have had more impact on humanity than all the kings and queens in the history books put together, they can look very off-putting.


The Great Moonbuggy Race
Racers from the Huntsville Center for Technology geared up for the Great Moonbuggy Race
January 31st, 2012
09:07 AM ET

The Great Moonbuggy Race

Editor’s Note: Pamela Greyer is a K-12 science educator, STEM education consultant and NASA solar system ambassador. She is the former site director of NASA’s Science, Engineering, Mathematics and Aerospace Academy Chicago Program and continues to mentor and engage youths in NASA engineering competitions and contests.

In 2004, I became a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) educator. At the time, STEM was an emerging concept in the education landscape and just another acronym used by NASA condensed from a series of words.

I had no idea the influence that teaching in the STEM fields would have on my life – as an educator, on my ability to inspire my students to develop a love of science and most importantly, to introduce my students to and engage them in engineering.

As an inner-city high school science teacher from Chicago, I am always looking for new opportunities to involve my students in STEM learning. I am ecstatic this year because I have a team of high school students entered in NASA’s 19th Annual Great Moonbuggy Race.

November 18th, 2011
05:45 PM ET

Test confirms particles appear to travel faster than the speed of light

(CNN) – Travel faster than the speed of light? Really?

Back in September, scientists found that tiny particles called neutrinos appeared to do just that, defying Einstein’s special theory of relativity.

It could be a fluke, but now the same experiment has replicated the result. It’s not hard proof yet, though; other groups still need to confirm these findings.

Physicists with the OPERA (Oscillation Project with Emulsion-tRacking Apparatus) experiment said in September that neutrinos sent about 454 miles (730 kilometers) from CERN in Switzerland arrived at Italy’s Gran Sasso National Laboratory a fraction of a second sooner than they should have according to Einstein’s theory.


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Filed under: Discoveries • News • Science Education
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