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| November 2020 |

Montana Learning Center to serve as regional hub for NASA’s 2020-2021 virtual ROADS on Asteroids Student Challenge. Registration now open.

 

https://nwessp.org/asteroids/registration/

In 2021, NASA will be launching two missions to study asteroids in our solar system. The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), scheduled to launch for asteroid Didymos in July 2021, seeks to redirect Didymos’s “moonlet,” a small secondary object in orbit around the asteroid. The Lucy mission, scheduled to launch in October 2021, will investigate the Trojan asteroids that trail Jupiter’s orbit.

In recognition of these missions, NASA’s annual student robotics challenges for 2020-2021 will focus on asteroid exploration. Montana Learning Center at Canyon Ferry Lake will once again serve as a regional hub for the challenge.

The ROADS (Rover Observation and Drone Survey) on Asteroids Challenge was developed by the NASA-funded Northwest Earth and Space Sciences Pipeline based at the University of Washington in Seattle (NESSP). The Challenge will engage students in grades 3 through 12 in interrelated science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) activities designed to simulate a mission to the “snowman” feature on the Vesta asteroid. Vesta is the largest asteroid in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

The ROADS on Asteroids Challenge requires teams to complete and document a number of different activities, including:

  • searching for signs of life in the teams’ environments using gas detectors and digital microscopes;
  • creating a map of a portion of Vesta’s surface;
  • building a computer controlled drone, a computer controlled rover and an impactor;
  • using the drone to knock the impactor off a pedestal onto a marked target on the map; and
  • landing the drone on the rover, robotically navigating the rover across potentially hazardous surfaces on the map looking for the building blocks for life, and flying the drone off the map.

Through these activities, students will gain a better understanding of NASA’s missions and the impact of STEM in their own lives and communities. The activities also will aid participating students in their ongoing school studies, according to NESSP.

Helping to sponsor the ROADS on Asteroids Challenge in Montana are the NASA Science Mission Directorate, NESSP, Montana Space Grant Consortium, Montana State University, Gianforte Family Foundation, and the Montana Learning Center.

“Students who participate in the Challenge will get a one-of-a-kind experience not normally found in the formal classroom setting,” Ryan Hannahoe, the Montana Learning Center’s Executive Director said. “They will gain hands-on skills needed to succeed in today’s world while learning NASA science through a set of unique and fun activities.”

“When I was in middle school, I participated in something like this and it stimulated and expanded my interest in science, which ultimately led me to a career in the field,” he continued.

“By leading this effort for Montana, the Learning Center is thrilled to provide a similar experience for students in hopes that one day they will pursue STEM-related careers in Montana’s workforce.”

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the ROADS on Asteroids Challenge will be held virtually, in a manner similar to how the 2019-2020 ROADS on Mars Challenge was held.

Teachers have the option of incorporating into their class curriculum a course program developed by NESSP as a companion to the ROADS on Asteroids Challenge. NESSP is offering both a five-unit curriculum that educators can adapt to suit their needs and sessions with an undergraduate teaching assistant to provide virtual instruction with hands-on experimentation. The Learning Center is proud to have co-developed this national curriculum with NESSP. Teachers can learn more about these offerings by visiting https://nwessp.org/programs/pages/curriculum/.

Registration for the ROADS on Asteroids Challenge is free, and no experience is necessary to participate. Teams must have at least three student members and an adult coach, but may have as many additional student members and adult coaches as they want.

For more information about the ROADS on Asteroids Challenge, contact Ryan Hannahoe by email at montanalearningcenter@gmail.com or by phone at (406) 475-3638, or visit https://nwessp.org/asteroids/about/. To register a team for the Challenge, visit https://nwessp.org/asteroids/registration/.

Montana Learning Center at Canyon Ferry Lake offers science summer camps for children in grades 1 through 12, aerospace programs for middle and high school students in collaboration with NESSP, the Museum of Flight, and the University of Washington, and teacher training programs. The Learning Center also has an observatory with two telescopes for viewing the cosmos and is working on the construction of the largest and most advanced telescope in Montana.

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